Michigan’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate held steady in February and March at 4.8 percent. Thus far, the unemployment rate in Michigan has remained below 5 percent in 2016. While the low unemployment rate is great news for the recovering economy, long-term unemployment is still a reality for 30 percent of the state’s unemployed population, according to a recent study done by the state’s Department of Technology, Management and BudgetBureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives.
The term “long-term unemployed” defines job-seekers who have been actively looking for work for 27 weeks (six months) or more. According to the state’s study, 1 in 3 unemployed individuals qualify as long-term unemployed. In December 2015, about 85,000 people in Michigan fit this category. These figures are radically different than those from 2000, when only 1 in 20 unemployed individuals were considered long-term unemployed. Michigan’s long-term unemployed study indicates this drastic change is a trademark of the Great Recession.
Who are the long-term unemployed in Michigan? The data is surprising.
The share of long-term unemployed men is much higher in Michigan than it is for the nation. Nearly two-thirds of the long-term unemployed population in Michigan are men, while approximately half are men nationally.
Why are men more affected by long-term unemployment in Michigan when compared to the rest of the nation?
According to the state’s study, the occupation groups with the highest long-term unemployment rate are management, business, and financial (34.4 percent); production (33 percent); and office and administrative support (32.9 percent) occupations. The majority of production occupations are traditionally held by men, making them more vulnerable to long-term unemployment in Michigan.
The chart shows the current employment within production occupations throughout Southeast Michigan. Men command 72 percent of all production occupations. In Southeast Michigan, the majority of production occupations are found within the automobile manufacturing industry. The automobile manufacturing industry was hit hard during the Great Recession, which likely contributed to the higher rate of long-term unemployed men in Michigan.
In response to this information, Michigan Works! agencies throughout Southeast Michigan are actively working to engage the long-term unemployed population in an effort to connect the job-seekers with employers that are hiring. The talent match-making approach is designed to bring long-term unemployed individuals into local one-stop centers to connect them with training opportunities, résumé and job search assistance, work-and-learn opportunities, and other resources for job-seekers. The ultimate goal is to reconnect the long-term unemployed with the labor force and fill local job openings with local talent using real-time data.
Similarly, community colleges and others provide training to help workers refresh their skills. Very often, resources are available to help offset related costs.
Only time will tell if these targeted initiatives will be sufficient in reducing the long-term unemployed figures throughout Michigan. However, as the labor market becomes tighter, companies may have no choice but to look to populations like the long-term unemployed to meet their needs. Very often, these workers possess knowledge and experience that can greatly benefit employers and, fortunately, there are community partners looking to help refresh and grow the skills of those looking to reconnect with the labor market. In the meantime, more work needs to be done to help further identify and engage this hard-to-reach population.
– This blog post was developed with data and research compiled by Melissa Sheldon, Senior Research Analyst at WIN.