Economists generally agree that the state’s economy is recovering, even if the one-tenth of a percentage point improvement from February’s 10.4% rate was modest.
“Michigan’s labor market indicators have shown steady improvement in the first three months of 2011,” said Rick Waclawek, director of the state’s Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives.
“Compared to this time last year, the state’s jobless rate has fallen significantly while private-sector payroll jobs have increased by 98,000 or 3.1%.”
The national unemployment rate in March was 8.8%.
Much of the gain in payroll jobs in March came in the category of professional and business services, which added 4,000 jobs. Often called the knowledge jobs of the future, that category has gained 39,000 jobs over the past 12 months.
In other good news, the state’s hard-hit manufacturing sector has rebounded to some extent, adding 30,000 jobs over the past 12 months. Education and health services added 14,000 during that time.
Only the government sector lost jobs over the past 12 months, shedding 19,000 positions.
Despite the improving trend, a significant number of Michiganders remain unemployed. In March, an estimated 487,000 state residents were out of work and unable to find jobs. Many people have seen their unemployment benefits expire.
Yet economists remain generally hopeful about the direction of Michigan’s economy. University of Michigan economist George Fulton forecast last week that Michigan employers would add 64,600 jobs this year, followed by 61,500 in 2012.
It will be a long time, though, before Michigan gains back all of the more than 800,000 jobs it lost in the past decade, he said.