Unemployment Down in West Michigan

July 29, 2005
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LANSING — It looks as though West Michigan can thank its diversified economy for avoiding the continuing job losses that have affected the state’s most auto-heavy job markets.

A report issued last week by the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Growth showed that the Detroit and Lansing areas were the only major markets in the state to suffer further increases in unemployment during June of this year. Both areas have seen auto industry layoffs and plant closures in the last year.

Detroit and Bay City were the only markets to show an overall reduction in the number of workers. Lansing gained in gross jobs, but not enough to keep up with a growing population. Bay City, on the other hand, saw a reduction in the total number of people working, but that decrease was smaller than the loss of available workers. Detroit was the only market in the state to suffer both a reduction in the total number of workers and a jump in joblessness.

News on the state’s west side was more promising. Many markets — including Grand Rapids, Holland, Kalamazoo and Muskegon — actually posted double-digit percent reductions in unemployment. The Grand Rapids/Wyoming market (made up of Barry, Ionia, Kent and Newaygo counties) saw the jobless rate fall from 7.4 to 6.1 percent (a 16.1 percent reduction) between June 2004 and June 2005. Meanwhile both the civilian labor force and total employment grew by small percentages. Those numbers were indicative of a larger pattern: Battle Creek, Holland, Kalamazoo and Muskegon all grew in terms of work force and total employment while reducing joblessness.

The overall jobless rate in the state fell to 6.9 percent from 7.3 at this time last year. That still keeps Michigan’s unemployment rate among the highest in the country. However, excluding the Detroit and Lansing areas yields a jobless rate of just 6.5.

Although most counties in West Michigan showed lower jobless rates than the state average, Ottawa County claimed the highest percentage of employed workers, with 5.2% jobless. The Ann Arbor area had the lowest rate of joblessness in the state, at just 4.4 percent. Click here to see the full report.    

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