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Published: Thursday, 1/22/2009

1 of 10 Michigan workers jobless

ASSOCIATED PRESS

LANSING - Michigan's unemployment rate is above 10 percent for the first time since the mid-1980s.

The state announced yesterday that its seasonally adjusted jobless rate for December soared to 10.6 percent. That's up from 9.6 percent in November and the highest monthly rate recorded in the state since December, 1984.

Total employment dropped by 68,000 over the month, and unemployment rose by 47,000. The state labor force declined by 21,000 jobs in a month.

The numbers were released at the same time Gov. Jennifer Granholm was discussing with reporters the expansion of services for unemployed workers, whose calls to the state seeking jobless benefits have overwhelmed state phone lines.

Michigan's jobless rate has increased by nearly 2 percentage points since September. Job reductions were widespread in December, throughout nearly all of Michigan's major industry sectors. Payroll jobs fell by 97,000 in November and December alone.

Ohio's December unemployment rate will be disclosed tomorrow. The November rate was 7.3 percent.

Rick Waclawek, director of the Michigan Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives, said job losses accelerated in the second half of 2008 in Michigan and the United States.

Michigan has had the nation's highest jobless rate for much of the past three years.

The national unemployment rate for December was 7.2 percent.

Michigan's double-digit jobless rate was expected as the state's struggling economy worsens because of the national recession. But the one-month leap in the rate was unusually large.

The December report caps a bleak year for Michigan's labor situation. The state lost 173,000 nonfarm payroll jobs in 2008. Michigan had 49,000 fewer manufacturing jobs at the end of the year than at the beginning.

Meanwhile, the state said it would beef up its overwhelmed unemployment system with a new call center and hundreds of new workers to take and process calls.

Although the current system is helping 12,000 jobless a day with claims, the phone system has been getting 1 million attempted calls a day, unemployment officials said.

Workers who have turned instead to an unemployment Web site often have found it slowed by heavy volume.

A fourth unemployment call center will open next week in Lansing, joining centers in Detroit, Grand Rapids, and Saginaw, officials said.

The state is upgrading its Internet service and adding hundreds of new phone lines and 276 people to take calls and process claims, in addition to the 476 workers doing that now.

Other segments with large job losses included professional and business services, construction, retail trade, and government.

The only major segment to gain employment in 2008 was education and health services, which recorded 6,000 more jobs in December, 2008, than in December, 2007.



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