May unemployment rates rose around the state, but that’s not as negative a sign as it might appear.
Rates increased in part because the labor force grew, as more people sought summer and seasonal jobs.
“What is typical for May, and what is favorable, is the rates ticking up slightly, and that really denotes people moving into the labor market,” said Jim Rhein, a labor market analyst with the Michigan Department of Technology, Management & Budget. “It’s one of those situations of the rate going up for the right reason.”
Over the month, total employment and the labor force increased seasonally in most of Michigan’s 17 major labor markets, with the largest percentage increases in employment coming in the northeast and northwest sections of the Lower Peninsula and in the Upper Peninsula.
Compared with a year ago, jobless rates fell in all regions of the state. Decreases were significant and ranged from 1.7 to 3.4 percentage points, with the largest drops occurring in the Flint, Muskegon and Holland metropolitan statistical areas.
Still, it’s a mixed picture, Rhein said. He said that although job and employment growth has been moderate over the year, many areas are also showing reductions in labor force, and that’s reflected in the declines in the jobless rate.
Since May 2010, employment rose in 15 regions, but labor force declined in 12 regions.
From April to May, industry sectors posted mostly typical seasonal gains. Leading the job growth were construction and leisure and hospitality services, with each sector adding 16,000 jobs.
Over the past year, professional and business services and manufacturing continued to grow and lead job gains. Professional and business services added 30,000 jobs from last May, and manufacturing employment grew by 21,000.
Education and health services, traditionally a strong sector, added 12,000 jobs, and most other industry sectors were steady or posted minor gains.
All told, payroll jobs grew statewide by 41,000 or 1 percent from a year ago, which is moderate improvement but “not real robust,” Rhein said.
“It’s growth, and that’s a good thing,” he said. “But I think to really see some recovery in the future, we have to go beyond that.”
Among Michigan regions in May:
• The Detroit area’s unemployment rate rose to 11.6 percent from 11.1 percent in April. Over the year, the rate for the region encompassing Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Lapeer, Livingston and St. Clair counties fell from 13.4 percent.
• In the Grand Rapids metropolitan statistical area, encompassing Barry, Ionia, Kent and Newaygo counties, the jobless rate rose to 8.3 percent from 8 percent in April. In May 2010, the rate was 10.6 percent.
• The Ann Arbor area’s jobless rate was 6.8 percent, up from 6.2 percent in April. The May rate for the area consisting of Washtenaw County was down from the year-ago rate of 8.5 percent.
• The Holland MSA, consisting of Ottawa County, saw its rate rise to 8.4 percent from 8.1 percent in April. The May rate was down from 11.2 percent a year ago.
• The Muskegon MSA of Muskegon County posted a jobless rate of 10.4 percent, compared with 10.1 percent in April. The rate in May 2010 was 13.5 percent rate.
• In the Flint MSA of Genesee County, the rate was 10.9 percent, up from 10.8 percent in April. The rate was down from 14.3 percent rate in May 2010.
By Amy Lane, Crain’s Detroit