November Jobless Rates Were Stable throughout Southern Lower Michigan

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capture Area jobless rate changes were minimal in November, as typical seasonal hiring in retail trade was partially offset by continued seasonal layoffs in leisure and hospitality and in business services. Unemployment rate changes throughout Southern Lower Michigan extended between -0.6 and +0.3 percentage points.

Regional Jobless Rates Were Flat Over the Month but Rose Modestly Over the Year 


All four Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) in Southern Lower Michigan continued to record unemployment rates that were below the statewide unadjusted rate of 4.5 percent. Berrien County’s jobless rate matched the national unadjusted rate of 4.4 percent. The jobless rate in the Kalamazoo-Portage MSA remained unchanged in November at 3.8 percent, ranking 5th lowest in November among the 14 Michigan metro areas. The Battle Creek MSA placed 7th at 4.1 percent and Jackson 8th at 4.3 percent. The unemployment rate in the Niles-Benton Harbor MSA matched the rate in Bay City and Saginaw at 4.4 percent and ranked 9th (Figures 1 and 2).

Unemployment rates inched down by a tenth of a percentage point in three of five Southern Lower Michigan metro counties (Calhoun, Jackson, and Kalamazoo). Jobless rates in the remaining two metro counties (Berrien and Van Buren) edged up by 0.1 and 0.3 percentage points, respectively (Table 1).

Jobless rates in non-metro labor markets of Southern Lower Michigan were mixed in November. Unemployment rates inched up by a tenth of a percentage point in Allegan and Cass but declined in Branch (-0.5 percentage points), Hillsdale (-0.5), and Lenawee (-0.6). The jobless rate in St. Joseph County remained unchanged in November (Table 2). The jobless rate was flat in Prosperity Region 8 (Southwest) and fell by four tenths of a percentage point in Prosperity Region 9 (Southeast) (Table 3).

Since November 2015, unemployment rates in all metro and non-metro counties of Southern Lower Michigan inched up between 0.3 and 0.7 percentage points, with a median advance of +0.5 percentage points for metro and +0.7 percentage points for non-metro counties. Over the year rate gains were primarily due to more people entering the market looking for jobs in many counties.

Labor Force Levels Were Mostly Up or Flat Over the Month and Over the Year in Regional Labor Markets.

In November, the civilian labor force (the number of employed individuals plus those actively looking for jobs) inched up in four of five local metro counties: Van Buren (+75), Calhoun (+400), Jackson (+700), and Kalamazoo (+700). The workforce level remained flat in Berrien. Since November 2015, all local metro counties recorded labor force gains: Jackson (+300), Van Buren (+425), Berrien (+500), Calhoun (+600), and Kalamazoo (+3,175) (Table 1).

Labor force inched up in five of six non-metro labor markets of Southern Lower Michigan in November, ranging from +50 in St. Joseph to +300 in Cass County. Workforce levels remained unchanged in Hillsdale. Since November 2015, labor force edged down by 75 in Branch County while remaining unchanged in Cass. Workforce levels moved up in the remaining four local non-metro counties, ranging from +75 in Hillsdale to +775 in Allegan County (Table 2).

November Household Employment Inched Up over the Month in Most Regional Labor Markets but Was Mixed Year to Year.

capture Household or place-of-residence employment captures jobs that are held by the residents of an area, no matter where they work, including farming and selfemployment. It is therefore different from the discussion of payroll jobs below, which counts jobs by place of work, no matter where the workers live, excluding farming and self-employment.

In November, household employment rose moderately in three of five local metro counties: Calhoun (+400), Jackson (+800), and Kalamazoo (+800). Employment edged down in the remaining two metro counties: Van Buren (-25) and Berrien (-100). Since November 2015, employment improved in three of five local metro counties: Calhoun (+300), Van Buren (+300), and Kalamazoo (+2,450). Employment was flat year to year in Berrien and Jackson counties (Table 1).

November employment advanced in all six regional non-metro labor markets, ranging from +50 in St. Joseph to +450 in Lenawee County. Over the year in November, employment declined in half of the six regional non-metro labor markets: Hillsdale (-100), Branch (-175), and Cass (-175). Household employment rose in the remaining three non-metro labor markets of Southern Lower Michigan: St. Joseph (+175), Lenawee (+300), and Allegan (+575) (Table 2).

Unemployment Rates for Local Metro Areas Have Steadily Declined since the Official End of the Recent Great Recession.  Current Rates Were Substantially Below 2007 Pre-recessionary Levels. 


November jobless rates in local metro areas reached double digit levels at the height of the recent Great Recession in 2009. In fact, unemployment rates for local metro areas jumped by an average of 5.5 percentage points between 2007 and 2009 in November. However, rates have dropped considerably since 2009 by an average of 6.0 percentage points. Compared to 2007, current November jobless rates also show substantial reductions in all four metro areas: Jackson (-2.7 percentage points), Niles-Benton Harbor (2.2), Battle Creek (-2.1), and Kalamazoo (-1.4).

Despite these low jobless rates, the number of individuals active in local metro labor markets (employed or unemployed) remains below 2007 pre-recessionary levels: Niles-Benton Harbor (-5,700), Kalamazoo (-4,900), Battle Creek (-4,400), and Jackson (-4,300).


November Nonfarm Payroll Jobs Inched Down in Three of Four Southern Lower Michigan Metro Areas (Battle Creek, Kalamazoo-Portage, and Niles-Benton Harbor). 

Battle Creek Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) (Calhoun County)

In November, the Battle Creek MSA (Calhoun County) recorded a seasonal 200-job gain in retail trade which was offset by a similar seasonal job cut in construction. In addition, a 100-job reduction each was registered in leisure and hospitality and in other private services (repair, personal care, nonprofits, etc.). Total nonfarm payroll jobs in the Battle Creek MSA inched down by 200 in November to a total of 60,000.

capture Since November 2015, a 300-job improvement each was recorded in both the goods-producing and service-providing sectors. Employment advancement in the goods-producing sector was concentrated solely in manufacturing, with 200 additional jobs in transportation equipment manufacturing alone. Jobs in construction were flat over the year. Job additions in service-providing sectors came primarily from professional and business services (+400) and private educational and health services (+200). A 100-employment gain each was also registered in financial activities and in leisure and hospitality. Jobs fell by 400 since November 2015 in trade, transportation, warehousing, and utilities, with -200 in retail trade alone. The current November level of total nonfarm payroll jobs in Battle Creek rose by 600 (or +1.0 percent) over 2015 levels and by 1,100 (or +2.0 percent) above the 2007 pre-recessionary level

Jackson Metropolitan Statistical Area (Jackson County) 


In November, nonfarm payroll jobs in the Jackson MSA (Jackson County) inched up 100 to a total of 55,700. The area gained 200 seasonal jobs in retail trade with the holiday shopping season, but registered a seasonal job cut of 100 positions in construction. Employment in all other sectors remained flat in November.

Since November 2015, goods-producing industries added 200 positions equally distributed between manufacturing and construction. The loss of 300 jobs in service-providing sectors (private and public) year to year came primarily from a 300-employment reduction each in trade, transportation, warehousing, and utilities and in private education and health services. A 100-job cut each was also displayed in leisure and hospitality and in other private services (repair, personal care, laundry, etc.).

However, the area recorded job improvements over the year in professional and business services (+300), financial activities (+100), and government (+100).

capture  Current total nonfarm payroll employment in Jackson was stable since November 2015, inching down only 100. However, current payroll jobs in Jackson were still substantially below (-3,000) the 2007 prerecessionary job level of 58,700; a decline of -5.6 percent.

Kalamazoo-Portage MSA (Kalamazoo and Van Buren counties) 

capture In the Kalamazoo-Portage MSA (Kalamazoo and Van Buren counties), despite job additions in retail trade (+300), local public education (+200), private education (+100), and wholesale trade (+100), November nonfarm payroll employment inched down by 300 to a total of 150,100. The area recorded a significant seasonal job reduction in leisure and hospitality (-500, with -300 in accommodation and food services alone). Construction also cut 300 positions, and employment in professional and business services fell by 200.
Since November 2015, employment in almost all industry sectors improved or remained unchanged, with the exception of leisure and hospitality (-800) and information (-100). Employment in professional and business services increased over the year (+1,800). A 900-job addition each was recorded in manufacturing and government. Other private sectors that recorded employment gains over the year in November included retail trade (+400), healthcare and social assistance (+300), and construction (+200). Total payroll jobs in the Kalamazoo-Portage MSA were 3,700 or 2.5 percent above November 2015 levels and 2,400 or 1.8 percent above the 2007 pre-recessionary job level.