December Jobless Rates Stable in Southwest Michigan Labor Markets – Michigan Works! South East
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December Jobless Rates Stable in Southwest Michigan Labor Markets

Michigan Works South East | December Jobless Rates Stable in Southwest Michigan Labor Markets
Seasonal job cuts were recorded in December throughout Southwest Michigan, in sectors such as construction, education (private and public), leisure and hospitality, and business services. However, seasonal workers also withdrew from the labor force, following the end of the holiday shopping season, and the beginning of winter break for schools. As a result, unemployment rates edged down marginally throughout the region

Regional Jobless Rates Remained Stable in December and Continued to Decline Noticeably Over the Year
Like last month, all four Southwest Michigan Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSA) recorded jobless rates that were below the statewide unadjusted unemployment rate of 4.5 percent in December. The Kalamazoo-Portage MSA had the 5 th lowest jobless rate in December among the 14 Michigan metro areas. Battle Creek ranked 7 th with a rate of 3.9 percent. Jackson and Niles-Benton Harbor showed matching unemployment rates of 4.0 percent and ranked 8th (Figure 1).


Jobless rates moderately declined in Southwest Michigan metro counties by an average of two tenths of a percentage point. Jobless rates in all Southwest Michigan non-metro labor markets edged down between a tenth of a percent in Lenawee and four tenths in St. Joseph, or remained flat (Allegan and Cass) (Tables 1 and 2). Jobless rates in the two local Prosperity Regions 8 and 9 declined as well each by two tenths of a percentage point (Table 3).
Van Buren County’s unemployment rate of 5.0 percent in December was higher than the nation’s unadjusted rate of 4.8 percent. Jobless rates for all other Southwest Michigan labor markets were lower than the unadjusted statewide rate of 4.5 percent. (Figure 2).

December jobless rates in both metro and non-metro counties of Southwest Michigan were below 2014 levels by 1.1 and 1.2 percentage points, respectively.
Labor Force Levels Were Down Mostly over the Month but Were Up over the Year

In December, civilian labor force inched up in Van Buren (+175) and was flat in Kalamazoo County. Workforce levels edged down in the remaining three local metro counties, ranging from -100 in Calhoun and Jackson to -200 in Berrien County. Over the year, labor force levels rose in local metro counties: +500 in Jackson, +725 in Van Buren, +900 in Calhoun, +1,700 in Berrien, and +3,775 in Kalamazoo (Table 1).

December labor force levels inched down slightly in all non-metro labor markets of Southwest Michigan, except in St. Joseph County. Over the year, workforce additions ranged from +50 in Cass to +525 in St. Joseph County. Allegan County’s labor force rose substantially since December 2014 (+1,475 or +2.5 percent) (Table 2).
Household Employment Was Stable in December and Improved Considerably Over the Year

In December, employment by place of residence inched up in 3 of 4 Southwest Michigan metro areas: +100 each in Battle Creek and Jackson, and +500 in KalamazooPortage. Household employment edged down 100 in Niles-Benton Harbor.

Since December 2014, all four local metro areas recorded substantial employment gains: +1,300 in Jackson, +1,500 in Battle Creek, +2,400 in Niles-Benton Harbor, and +6,200 in Kalamazoo-Portage.

In non-metro areas, jobs remained flat in December in Hillsdale and Lenawee, edged up in St. Joseph (+175) while inching down in Branch (-25), Cass (-50), and Allegan (-175).

Over the year, employment levels advanced by about 300 each in Branch, Cass, and Hillsdale counties, by 850 in St. Joseph, and by a little over 1,000 in Lenawee. Employment in Allegan County rose substantially year to year in December (+2,050 or +3.6 percent).
December 2015 jobless rates recorded significant declines since 2006: Jackson (-3.4 percentage points), NilesBenton Harbor (-3.1), Battle Creek (-2.8), and Kalamazoo (- 2.1).

Since the peak levels attained during the Great Recession in 2008-2009, unemployment rates in local metropolitan areas have fallen considerably, by an average of -8.6 percentage points.

Despite the current low unemployment rates in local metro areas, the number of individuals active in the labor market (employed or unemployed) remain below 2007 pre-recessionary levels by an average of 6,400 within the four local metro areas (with 3,500 fewer individuals employed and 2,900 fewer persons looking for jobs).
Nonfarm Payroll Jobs Were Stable in December in Southwest Michigan Metro Areas

In December, all four Southwest Michigan metropolitan statistical areas displayed typical seasonal payroll job cuts in construction, education (private and public), leisure and hospitality, and business services

Battle Creek Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA)

Nonfarm payroll employment in the Battle Creek MSA (Calhoun County) fell by 300 in December, mainly due to a seasonal job cut of 300 in construction and of 100 each in government, leisure and hospitality, and professional and business services. Employment in trade, transportation, warehousing, and utilities inched up 100 over the month. Total nonfarm payroll jobs were estimated at 59,800 in December.
Over the year in December, employment continued to improve in most sectors, with the exception of trade, transportation, warehousing, and utilities (-200), construction (flat), and financial activities (flat). Private education and health services created 300 new positions year to year, and employment in manufacturing and in professional and business services each rose by 200. A 100-job addition each was registered in government, leisure and hospitality, and other private services (nonprofits, personal care, etc.). Total payroll jobs in Battle Creek inched up by 700 (or +1.2 percent) from December 2014 to December 2015. Nonfarm payroll employment in the Battle Creek area has also surpassed the previous 10-year peak of 58,900, attained in December 2006, by 900.

Jackson Metropolitan Statistical Area (Jackson County)
Nonfarm payroll employment in the Jackson MSA (Jackson County) edged down 200 in December to a total of 56,500. Seasonal job cuts were recorded in private education and health services (-300), government (-200), construction (-100), and professional and business services (-100). Trade, transportation, warehousing, and utilities added 200 new positions, and a 100-job improvement each was tallied in information and in leisure and hospitality.

Since December 2014, trade, transportation, utilities added 300 jobs, and the manufacturing sector advanced by 200. Employment in most other sectors was little changed. Total nonfarm payroll jobs in Jackson inched up 400 since December 2014, but were still 3,400 below the 10-year peak level of 59,900 reached in 2006.
Kalamazoo-Portage MSA (Kalamazoo and Van Buren counties)
Nonfarm payroll employment in the Kalamazoo-Portage MSA (Kalamazoo and Van Buren counties) was virtually flat in December, inching down by 200 to a total of 146,200. Private and public education (state and local) together cut 400 positions seasonally. A 200-job reduction each was also recorded in construction and professional and business services. However, the sectors of retail trade and of leisure and hospitality services each added 200 positions in December, and employment in other private services rose by 100.

Since December 2014, employment in all sectors either improved or remained flat. Leisure and hospitality registered 1,700 new positions over the year, as did retail trade (+600), construction (+500), manufacturing, health care and social assistance, and government (+400 each). Total payroll jobs in Kalamazoo were 4,700 or +3.3 percent above December 2014 levels, but remained 1,500 below the highest level attained over the past 10 years in 2006.
Payroll nonfarm employment in the Niles-Benton Harbor MSA (Berrien County) inched down 300 in December to a total of 62,400. A 100-job cut each was recorded in construction, professional and business services, private education and health services, leisure and hospitality, and government. However, employment in the sectors of trade, transportation, warehousing, and utilities and of other private services rose by 100 each.

Since December 2014, employment in most sectors improved or remained unchanged, with the exception of trade, transportation, warehousing, and utilities (-200). Considerable job additions were recorded year to year in leisure and hospitality (+1,000), manufacturing (+400), government (+300), professional and business services (+200), and private education and health services (+200). Total nonfarm employment in the Niles-Benton Harbor MSA was 1,900, or 3.1 percent, above December 2014 levels. However, current December payroll jobs were still 3,500 below pre-recessionary 2007 levels