Berrien Unemployment Rate Improves Slightly, but Still Historically High

The good news is the unemployment rate in Berrien County and all other Michigan labor markets improved last month, but as you might expect thanks to the pandemic, they are still remaining at historically high levels.

The Michigan Department of Technology, Management & Budget rolled out the numbers today, reporting that seasonally unadjusted jobless rates moved down modestly in all 17 of Michigan’s major labor market areas between April and May.

Jason Palmer, Director of the Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives, tells us, “Regional jobless rates declined in May, but remained at historically high levels,” noting, “A rebound in jobs occurred in several industries, led by a job gain in construction.”

May jobless rates ranged from 13.7-percent in the Ann Arbor metro area to 24.8-percent in the Muskegon region. May jobless rate declines ranged from 0.5 to 7.1-percentage points, with a median reduction of 4.4-percentage points. The highest over-the-month unemployment rate change was in the Northwest Lower Michigan region (-7.1), followed by the Northeast Lower Michigan region (-6.9). The smallest rate reduction of 0.5-percentage points occurred in the Detroit metropolitan statistical area (MSA).

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For Berrien County, the jobless rate in May checks in at 18.6-percent, an improvement over April’s rate of 20.4-percent, but dramatically higher than a year ago when it stood at 3.8-percent in May of 2019. Berrien’s civilian labor force increased by 8.2-percent with 5,700 more people in the workforce than in April, but there were still some 13,900 people on the unemployment rolls locally in May, down from the 14,100 without a job in April.

Jobless rates increase substantially over year

Regional unemployment rates surged over the year, with a notable median rate jump of 16.1- percentage points. The largest over-the-year rate hike was seen in the Muskegon MSA (+20.8), while the smallest was observed in the Ann Arbor MSA (+10.9).

Total employment rebounds slightly over month, remains down over year

Total employment advanced in all 17 major Michigan regions between April and May. Employment gains ranged from 2.2 to 19.1-percent, with a median increase of 10.6-percent. The most pronounced over-the-month employment hike was in the Northwest Lower Michigan region, while the smallest was recorded in the Detroit MSA.

Total employment declined in all regions since May 2019. The largest reduction was registered in the Detroit metro area (-28.4-percent), while the smallest decrease was seen in the Upper Peninsula region (-8.9-percent).

Labor force levels advance in May but were mixed over the year

Workforce levels moved up in all 17 Michigan regions between April and May. Increases in levels showed variance, ranging from 1.5 to 9.3-percent. The most modest monthly labor force changes were registered among counties in the Detroit metro area.

Labor force trends were mixed over the year and were difficult to evaluate due to the extreme shifts in employment and unemployment levels since May 2019.

May payroll jobs rebound slightly in Michigan metro areas

The monthly survey of employers indicated that, after the massive pandemic-related layoffs in April, Michigan’s seasonally unadjusted payroll jobs in May advanced by 215,000, or 6.3-percent. The largest numeric industry job gains occurred in construction (+62,000) and trade, transportation, and utilities (+58,000). The only major industry sector with a large employment decline over the month was government (-27,000).

Payroll jobs rose in May in all 14 Michigan metro areas. Advances ranged from 2.0-percent to 10.2- percent, with the largest percent job hike in the Jackson MSA. Ann Arbor exhibited the smallest monthly percentage job addition (+2.0-percent).

Despite the monthly increase, Michigan’s nonfarm job levels remain far below May 2019 levels. Jobs over the past year fell sharply by 857,000, or 19.2-percent. All 14 metro regions had double-digit job cuts over the year, led by the Monroe MSA (-21.1-percent).

County jobless rates down over month, up over year

Eighty-two Michigan counties recorded jobless rate declines in May, with the largest percentage point drop seen in Cheboygan County (-11.2-percentage points). Wayne County was the only county with a rate advance in May (+0.6). Over the year, all 83 counties had notable jobless rate hikes, led by Mackinac County (+26.5) and Cheboygan County (+25.7).

Data in this report is not seasonally adjusted. As a result, employment and unemployment trends may differ from previously released Michigan seasonally adjusted data.

Regional and county employment estimates are produced monthly using information from the week of the 12th of each month. The information in this report covers labor market trends for the week of May 10–16, 2020, in the midst of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s Executive Order 2020-21 “Stay Home, Stay Safe.”

As such, the information in this report significantly reflects the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on employment trends in Michigan regions.