2017-01-12 / Front Page

Trades Jobs Open; Unemployment at Its Winter Average

Jobs Picture Shows Some Promise in EUP
By John Raffel

Job opportunities are plentiful in the skilled trades, and about 300 retail jobs will soon be added in Chippewa County when a new Meijer store opens in Sault Ste. Marie.

In Mackinac County, winter unemployment levels are at about their average, 11.1% in November, as a result of the seasonal closure of tourism businesses and shutdown of some construction sites. The seasonal unemployment rate here has normalized compared to the post-recession years; in November 2010 it was 18.1%.

Bruce Weaver, an economic analyst from the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget/Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives, said his department provides data on unemployment in the various counties in Michigan. Recent data from the department shows in Chippewa County for November 2016, the unemployment rate was 6.2%, up from 5.4% in October.

In Mackinac County, where tourism makes up a bigger slice of the jobs pie, the county “always has a significant increase in unemployment in the winter months,” Mr. Weaver said, the rate of 11.1% in November was the high in Michigan. The county’s unemployment rate was 3.7% in October.

“The two counties in Michigan that have the most seasonable change in their labor unemployment are Cheboygan and Mackinac counties,” Mr. Weaver said. “St. Ignace is in Mackinac County and Mackinaw City is in Cheboygan County. Those counties have significant increases in unemployment in the winter months and extending into the first quarter with January, February, and March. Once the tourism jobs disappear [for the season], that affects the rate of unemployment.”

It’s not just the tourism market that has an impact on the jobless picture, Mr. Weaver pointed out.

“In northern Michigan, there other industries like the construction sector, that once the weather gets harsh, construction workers and those type of workers [are off the job], as well,” he said.

In comparing unemployment numbers from 2010, Mr. Weaver noted, when the state was just coming out of the economic recession, the unemployment rate in Chippewa County in November was 10.9%.

Since then, the jobless rate has fallen steadily, he said.

In Mackinac County in November 2010, the unemployment rate of 18.1% was “significantly higher than it is now,” Mr. Weaver said. “Unemployment fell fairly slowly during the intervening years to 9.9% in November of last year and now 11.1 for 2016. So 9.9 and 11.1 are, essentially, the same. It’s equivalent to where it was this time last year.

“If you do the year-by-year comparison, you get a much better sense of what this represents in terms of the overall state of the economy. When you look at the same month over the years, you get a better sense of the actual state of the labor market. If you look at most of the counties in Michigan, you would see this pattern getting high in 2009 and 2010, those years of the recession. Jobless rates have been falling fairly regularly since then.”

Michigan Works deals directly with unemployed workers and trying to get them back to work, Mr. Weaver said.

Rob Arndt, services manager of the Michigan Works office in Escanaba, concurred with Mr. Weaver’s assessments.

“Obviously, the unemployment is going to rise in that area right now,” Mr. Arndt said, referring to Mackinac and neighboring counties. “But Sault Ste. Marie is Chippewa County has a Meijers coming into town and they’ll be hiring a couple of hundred people over there. There’s about 300 [jobs], and about 20% of that will be full-time and the others will be parttime.”

For people collecting unemployment in the winter and looking for work, this year offers the same procedure as in the past, Mr. Arndt said, adding that individuals can go on the Mitalent.org Web site, where job listings across the state are provided.

More skilled workers are needed in this area.

“Skilled trades is a great field to go into where people can have a good career and make a good deal of money,” Mr. Arndt said.

Across the state, unemployment numbers are down, Mr. Arndt observed. In November, it was 4.9%, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“A lot of businesses are looking for people. In Dickinson County, for example, you’re having businesses looking for all kinds of skilled trade people like welders, electricians, machine people, wire people...There’s plenty of jobs out there. In Manistique at the paper mill, they’re going to hire some more people since they’re adding a new shift in the coming year. There’s a lot of good jobs out there.”

Mr. Arndt advises job seekers to go to their local Michigan Works service center to “get your resume up to snuff and ready, and talk to a talent specialist in there and find out what sort of jobs there are.”

Aptitude tests are available to help pair workers with suitable jobs, he said.

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