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March regional jobless rates move up, reflecting early impact of COVID-19 on Michigan's workforce

April 23, 2020
Caleb Buhs, or 517-282-6018

LANSING, Mich. -- Seasonally unadjusted jobless rates rose in 14 of Michigan’s 17 major labor market areas in March, according to data released today from the Michigan Department of Technology, Management & Budget. The data in this release reflects the Michigan employment status for the week of March 8–14, which was prior to the full impact of COVID-19 on the state labor market. Most of the COVID-19-related layoffs that occurred in the second half of March are not reflected in the data in this release. 

“Regional monthly jobless rate changes in March did not reflect most of the impact of COVID-19 on Michigan’s major labor markets,” said Jason Palmer, director of the Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives. “The data did show payroll job reductions in the leisure and hospitality sector, likely due to some early layoffs in the restaurant industry.”

Unemployment rate advances ranged from 0.1 to 1.2 percentage points, with a median increase of two-tenths of a percentage point. The largest over-the-month rate change occurred in the Detroit-Warren-Dearborn metropolitan statistical area (MSA), with a rate gain of 1.2 percentage points. The Northeast Lower Michigan region exhibited a slight jobless rate decline (-0.1), while both Monroe and Niles-Benton Harbor MSA rates remained unchanged.

Jobless rates down over the year
Since March 2019, regional unemployment rates in Michigan declined in 16 labor market areas. The largest over-the-year rate reduction occurred in the Northeast Lower Michigan region (-1.7 percentage points). The Detroit MSA was the only Michigan labor market to exhibit an increase in jobless rate over the year (+0.2). 

Total employment down over month and year
Total employment fell in all 17 major Michigan labor market areas during the month of March. Employment reductions ranged from 0.2 to 3.2 percent, with a median decline of 2.7 percent. The largest over-the-month employment decrease was seen in the Upper Peninsula (-3.2 percent).

Total employment moved down in 12 regions over the year, with the most prominent over-the-year reduction occurring in the Bay City MSA (-2.5 percent). Four regions recorded employment advances since March 2019.

Workforce levels down over month and year
Over the month, labor force levels receded in 16 of Michigan’s 17 labor market areas. Workforce reductions ranged from 1.7 to 3.0 percent, with the largest percentage decline in the Upper Peninsula (-3.0 percent). The Detroit metro region was the only labor market area with a monthly increase in labor force (+1.0 percent).  

Workforce levels fell in 16 regions over the year. The Bay City MSA exhibited the largest over-the-year decrease, down by 3.4 percent since March 2019. The Detroit metro region had a modest labor force advance over the year (+0.6 percent).  

March payroll jobs decline in leisure and hospitality
The monthly survey of employers indicated that unadjusted payroll jobs in Michigan fell by 16,000 over the month, or 0.4 percent, to 4,392,000. The largest over-the-month employment reductions were observed in the leisure and hospitality sector (-8,000), likely reflecting the beginning of COVID-19-related layoffs in the restaurant industry.

Payroll employment fell in eight of the state’s 14 metro areas during March. Metro area job reductions ranged from 0.3 to 0.6 percent, with the largest percentage job cut in the Bay City region. Five regions added nonfarm jobs over the month, and the Jackson area registered no job change in March. 

Michigan’s unadjusted payroll employment total remained essentially unchanged over the year, declining by a mere 3,000, or 0.1 percent. Ten metro regions recorded payroll job cuts over this period, led by the Bay City MSA (-3.7 percent). Three regions showed payroll job advances since March 2019, while the Niles-Benton Harbor MSA had no job change over the year.  

County jobless rates up over month, down over year
Fifty-four Michigan counties demonstrated jobless rate advances in March with a median increase of 0.2 percentage points. Fifteen counties exhibited rate declines over the month, while rates in 14 remained unchanged. Over the year, 77 counties demonstrated jobless rate reductions. Five regions experienced rate gains, while Livingston County’s rate remained unchanged since March 2019.  

For more detailed information, including data tables, view the full release.


Note: Data in this release is not seasonally adjusted. As a result, employment and unemployment trends may differ from previously released Michigan seasonally adjusted data.

A breakdown of seasonally unadjusted March workforce estimates for Michigan and its 17 major labor market areas follows, along with a listing of county jobless rates for March.

Note to editors: Please ensure that the source for state unemployment rates reads “Michigan Department of Technology, Management & Budget.”

Note COVID-19 pandemic: State employment estimates are produced on a monthly basis using employment information from the week of the 12th of each month. The information in this release covers labor market trends for the week of March 8–14, 2020, ten days prior to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s Executive Order 2020-21 “Stay Home, Stay Safe.”

As such, the information in this release does not reflect the majority of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Michigan’s workforce.   

For more information on the COVID-19 pandemic’s effect on workforce estimates, please visit the following resources from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics:

Effects of COVID-19 on the Local Area Unemployment Statistics Program

FAQs – The impact of COVID-19 pandemic on The Employment Situation for March 2020