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Michigan jobless rate drops in October despite modest gain in payroll jobs

November 18, 2020
Caleb Buhs, or 517-282-6018

LANSING, Mich. -- Michigan’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 5.5 percent during October, according to data released today by the Michigan Department of Technology, Management & Budget. This was the lowest jobless rate in the state since March.

The national jobless rate fell by one full percentage point between September and October to 6.9 percent. Michigan’s October rate was 1.4 percentage points below the U.S. rate, but for most of 2020, the Michigan rate has exceeded the national average. Over the year, the U.S. unemployment rate advanced by 3.3 percentage points. Michigan’s over-the-year rate increase was 1.6 percentage points.

“Michigan’s labor market continued to show some improvement during October,” said Wayne Rourke, associate director of the Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives. “However, despite a jobless rate decline over the month, nonfarm jobs were still over 400,000 below pre-pandemic levels.”

Monthly labor force trends and highlights

  • Michigan labor force trends for October 2020 were difficult to evaluate, as the increase in employment from the household survey was well above the payroll job gain from the business survey.
  • A better measure of recent Michigan trends may be the three-month average number of employed and unemployed in the state between August and October.
    • Michigan’s three-month average employment level was 4,503,000. This was 267,000 below the pre-pandemic February 2020 employment level.
    • Michigan’s three-month average unemployment level was 369,000. This was 189,000 above the February level.
  • Over the year, Michigan’s workforce declined by 1.7 percent. The national labor force level fell by 2.1 percent since October 2019.

Detroit metro region jobless rate falls in October

The Detroit-Warren-Dearborn Metropolitan Statistical Area’s (MSA) seasonally adjusted jobless rate dropped to 6.2 percent during October. Total employment rose by 156,000, or 8.6 percent. The estimated number of unemployed fell in October, but over the past three months, unemployment in the Detroit MSA averaged 93,000 above the pre-pandemic February 2020 unemployment level.

The Detroit MSA jobless rate advanced by 2.2 percentage points over the year. However, over the past three months, the jobless rate averaged 8.6 percent, or 4.6 percentage points above the October 2019 rate.

Nonfarm employment edges up slightly in October

According to the monthly survey of employers, seasonally adjusted payroll jobs inched up by 16,000 over the month, or 0.4 percent. This was the smallest monthly job gain in Michigan since pandemic-related recalls began in May 2020.  

Sectors with the largest job additions in October included professional and business services (+6,000); trade, transportation, and utilities (+6,000); and leisure and hospitality (+6,000). The state’s manufacturing industry recorded the largest job decline, edging down slightly by 2,000 in October.

Industry employment trends and highlights

  • October marked the sixth consecutive month of recalls of workers since the pandemic-related job plunge in April. Over the past six months, total nonfarm jobs rose by 632,000, or 19.0 percent.
  • The state’s leisure and hospitality industry also advanced in employment for the sixth consecutive month. However, the industry has registered the largest over-the-year decline in jobs, down 140,000 or 32 percent.
  • Michigan’s manufacturing sector recorded a sharp drop of 43,000 jobs since October 2019.
  • Retail trade in the state exhibited a job advance in October for the sixth consecutive month. Since April, jobs in the sector have moved up by 94,000 as workers returned from pandemic-related layoffs.
  • Over the year, statewide payroll employment fell by 381,000, or 8.6 percent.

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