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Published: Thursday, 4/16/2009

Michigan joblessness at 12.6%, but losses are slowing


LANSING - Michigan's unemployment rate jumped to 12.6 percent in March, but job losses have slowed in recent months, good news for the hard-hit state.

Still, the rise announced yesterday from 12 percent in February is likely to keep Michigan in the spotlight as the state with the nation's worst unemployment rate. The national unemployment rate in March was 8.5 percent. Ohio's March rate will be disclosed tomorrow.

The bright news in the monthly report is that payroll jobs declined by a total of 34,000 in February and March. Over the three months of November, December, and January, the state lost 116,000 jobs.

The manufacturing sector was the only major job category in March to show an increase in jobs as some furloughed workers were called back to work. Two thousand jobs were added, although the state overall has lost 96,000 manufacturing jobs in the past year, including 54,000 lost from December to January.

Christina Bristow, regional operations manager in Jackson for Swiss-based staffing company Adecco SA, said there are signs Michigan's economic slide may be bottoming out. The biggest demand in the 14 branches she oversees has been for mortgage processors, indicating the state's hard-hit housing market may be starting to recover.

"We don't expect anything's going to get better quickly, but we see a glimmer of hope," Ms. Bristow said.

Economist Patrick Anderson of East Lansing took a more cautious stance, saying all bets are off until the state finds out if General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC will survive.

"The big shoe left to drop is whether the federal government will push either Chrysler or General Motors into bankruptcy. And that could have catastrophic effects," he said.

A year ago, Michigan's rate stood at 7.5 percent.

Seasonally adjusted Michigan payroll jobs declined in March by 23,000 to 3.9 million.

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