Economic Recovery Continues among West Michigan Industries

The unemployment rate across the state reached historic levels at the onset of the pandemic, skyrocketing to achieve a rate of 23.6 percent in April — the highest jobless rate seen for the state since at least 1976 (as far back as comparable records extend) — and stood at 14.9 percent as recently as June. The 5.8 percentage point recovery to the state’s unemployment rate occurring from May to June reflects an increase of 481,000 to the number of employed residents across Michigan, which still remains over half a million below employment counts recorded in February. The number of unemployed residents in Michigan fell by 241,000 over-the-month, which was the largest monthly change observed since the onset of the pandemic, but the size of the unemployed population remains 4 times larger than counts recorded in February.

The state’s labor force recovered 240,000 participants in June as industries continued to reopen and furloughed employees continued to return to work, marking the first month since February where the size of the state’s labor force exceeded that observed before the pandemic and state mandated lockdown – with an excess of 41,000 participants in June compared to February. Considering employment counts were half their pre-COVID levels and the unemployed population remained 4 times larger in June, it would appear that a majority of these additional labor force participants are actively seeking work rather than being recalled to their former jobs. This might suggest permanent job loss resulting from the pandemic for those organizations forced into bankruptcy, or could signal shifting preferences among job-seekers toward occupations requiring less frequent face-to-face contact, reduced risk of exposure, and greater opportunities for remote-work — most prevalent among the industries of Healthcare, Teaching, Engineering and Product Development, and Sales (according to a recent article from EMSI).


Growth continues among all West Michigan Industries (except Government)

The 23.0 percent rate of unemployment seen for West Michigan in April was a historic high — reflecting a spike of 20.1 percentage points from the rate of 2.9 percent recorded in March — though the region’s jobless rate recovered slightly in May to hit 18.2 percent. As of June the jobless rate continued to plummeted to achieve a rate of 12.6 percent, the largest over-the-month recovery observed in West Michigan since the onset of the pandemic, although June’s jobless rate still slightly exceeds the previous historic high of 12.5 percent recorded during the apex of the Great Recession in 2009.

Lf & UR, WM_June

The modest economic recovery observed in West Michigan over-the-month resulted from an employment gain of 81,889 (+11.9%), while the number unemployed dropped by 42,522 (-27.7%) from May to June to achieve a total of 111,024 – which remains over 4 times larger than unemployment counts recorded in February. The region’s labor force continued to gain participants for the second consecutive month since the onset of the pandemic, with 39,367 additional participants gained in June (4.7%), reversing the massive attrition observed through March and April to exceed the size of the pre-COVID labor force by 40,919 participants.

Over-the-Month Growth, by Industry

West Michigan’s job count rose by 45,200 (+8.7%) from May to June, signaling the second month of positive job growth for the region since the pandemic-imposed state lock-down in March. Job recovery over-the-month was most pronounced among Goods-producing industries, which gained 16,900 jobs (+13.0%), while Service-providing industries gained 28,300 jobs (+7.3%). The largest over-the-month job gains were concentrated among Leisure and Hospitality (+39.7%; +11,600 jobs), Accommodation and Food Services (+39.1%; +10,100 jobs), Other Services (+15.8%; +2,900 jobs), and Manufacturing (+14.1%; +14,200 jobs). Conversely, just one sector in West Michigan continued to experience job loss through June, with Government cutting 1,300 jobs (-2.5%) over-the-month.

Job Loss by Industry, Indexed to March

Although nearly all West Michigan industries have shown evidence of recovery since March, total regional job counts are still 60,900 (-9.7%) short in comparison to the counts recorded before the pandemic, with significant variations across industries and sectors. Goods-producing industries have lost nearly 12,000 jobs since the onset of the pandemic, a growth rate of -7.4 percent, while Service-providing industries have lost over 49,000 workers (-10.5%). Pandemic-related job losses were especially pronounced among Accommodation and Food Services — which has lost over 27 percent of its workforce since March (-13,400 jobs) — and Leisure and Hospitality, which lost 14,400 jobs (-26.1%). As of June, Mining, Logging, and Construction remained the only industry in West Michigan to employ more workers following the lock-down than before it, gaining 3,800 jobs (+13.6%) since March.


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