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Michigan jobless rate edges down to 15.1 percent

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Michigan’s unemployment rate dipped slightly to 15.1 percent in October as total employment grew in the state for the first time since mid-2007, according to a state report released Wednesday.

The jobless rate is down from the 15.3 percent posted in September. But it likely will remain the highest rate in the nation, depending on other state reports expected over the next few days.

Michigan has had at least a share of the nation’s highest unemployment rate for nearly four years, in large part because of financial problems in the auto industry.

The national unemployment rate last month rose to 10.2 percent. But Michigan’s rate was able to improve slightly, with the state reporting that 22,000 more people were employed overall last month compared to September.

It’s too early to say that Michigan’s economy is turning around. But at least the state’s employment picture doesn’t seem to be getting much worse month to month. The state’s seasonally adjusted jobless rate has hovered around 15 percent since June after climbing dramatically in late 2008 and early 2009.

“You never want to put too much weight on one month’s data,” said Charles Ballard, a Michigan State University economist. “So many factors go into it. But we’ve now had several reports in a row where it hasn’t gotten much worse.”

State officials said their monthly survey of employers indicates that 39,000 payroll jobs were added to the Michigan economy in October. But the state still has 263,000 fewer payroll jobs than a year ago, when the jobless rate was 9.1 percent.

The state added 3,000 manufacturing jobs in October. But Michigan overall has 96,000 fewer manufacturing jobs now than a year ago.

Employers reported adding 25,000 business and professional service jobs in October, although state officials said that increase likely is overstated because of seasonal employment patterns.

About 11,000 jobs were added in education and health services, while 5,000 were added in construction.

The state lost about 4,000 leisure and hospitality jobs and about 3,000 retail trade jobs last month.

© 2009 Associated Press. Displayed by permission. All rights reserved.

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