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Northeast Michigan unemployment numbers are trending downward

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New data released by the state show the unemployment rate in many northeastern lower peninsula counties is trending downward. But the overall average is still high, above nine percent.

The primary reason the northeastern lower peninsula and eastern upper peninsula have high unemployment rates is the economy’s dependence on tourism. Many businesses shut down during the winter months.

“And so we tend to see a significant decline in employment seasonally in the winter," said State economist Leonidas Murembya. "And then as spring and summer start coming up, then we see an uptick of employment in those regions.”

Mackinac County’s unemployment is at 18%. That’s the highest in the state. But it’s gone down over the past several years, even with the pandemic. It was 23% in February 2018. Despite the seasonal declines in employment, Murembya said the overall employment rate continues to trend upward.

Murembya said it’s hard to know current labor force participation trends because they come from the U.S. Census Bureau.

“And they are falling a little bit behind because they couldn't send out people to gather that information through surveys during COVID,” said Murembya.

The upper peninsula overall unemployment rate for February was 6.6% while the state average sat at 5.3%. Both are higher than the national average.

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