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Published: Friday, 7/24/2009

Jobless rates in southeast Michigan soar

BY GARY T. PAKULSKI
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

The number of jobless workers in Michigan areas bordering northwest Ohio doubled in June from a year earlier as unemployment rates soared to near post-World War II highs.

But a state labor analyst said yesterday the newly released rates - which approach 20 percent - for Monroe, Lenawee, and Hillsdale counties are related to the troubled auto industry and are unlikely to stay so high.

"Right now, we're dealing with restructuring in the auto industry," labor analyst Jim Rhein said. "It impacted the carmakers and all their suppliers. These counties are supplier-heavy."

The Michigan Department of Energy, Labor & Economic Growth reported yesterday that unemployment rose to 17.1 percent in Monroe County last month from 16.2 percent in May and 8.5 percent in June, 2008.

Lenawee rose to 18 percent from 16.7 percent the prior month and 9.7 percent in June, 2008. Hillsdale, which had the third-highest jobless rate in Michigan in June, increased to 19.9 percent from 18.5 percent in May and 10.1 percent a year earlier. Only Oscoda County, in northwest lower Michigan, and Baraga County, in the Upper Peninsula, had higher rates.

The rate in the Toledo suburb of Bedford Township rose to 14.3 percent from 13.6 percent in May and 7 percent in June, 2008, state officials said.

The rates are the highest since the deep recession of 1982-1983.

In Monroe, 13,266 workers were jobless, more than double the 6,547 unemployed workers in June, 2008.

Michigan has the highest unemployment rate in the nation. It increased to 15.4 percent in June from 13.9 percent in May and 8.4 percent in June, 2008.

All but two of the state's 83 counties logged rates over 10 percent last month. Auto-industry trouble was coupled with tepid seasonal hiring, employment officials said.

The jobless rate in Ohio rose to 11.1 percent in June from 10.8 percent in May and 6.4 percent in June, 2008. Some of the highest rates are in northwest Ohio. In Lucas County, 14.6 percent of workers were jobless, up from 13.4 percent in May. The comparable U.S. rate was 9.5 percent.

Economies of both Michigan and Ohio are tied heavily to auto manufacturing. However, General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group LLC, which have experienced some of the most severe problems, have emerged from bankruptcy and have begun to recall workers.

At Time Services, an employment agency in Hillsdale, staffing specialist Katie Omo said demand for workers was especially weak in June. "We didn't have anything," she said.

But hiring is reviving. "This week, we had 20 to 30 openings," Ms. Omo said. Demand is coming from the auto industry and banks.

Customers told the staffing service demand for workers could rise more next month, she said.

Contact Gary Pakulski at:

gpakulski@theblade.com

or 419-724-6082.



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