TRAVERSE CITY — Leelanau County’s unemployment rate rose rapidly in February to 10.8 percent, mimicking a wintertime spike in unemployment throughout the Grand Traverse region.
Leelanau’s latest unemployment numbers from the Michigan’s Department of Technology, Management and Budget initially might seem high considering the county had the third-lowest unemployment rate in the state just last August, at 6 percent. The county is now ranked 46th out of 83 counties in the state for monthly unemployment statistics.
But an expert for the state of Michigan said unemployment approaching 11 percent in Leelanau is relatively typical for the winter months in a northern Michigan economy heavily dependent on seasonal tourism.
“It had a pretty good uptick, but if you look from December to February … it’s pretty typical,” said Jim Rhein, a data analyst for the state of Michigan.
Leelanau Peninsula Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Sally Guzowski suspects a particularly brutal winter led to some layoffs.
“Very seasonal, and I think the cold weather played into a lot of construction jobs,” Guzowski said. “There were some layoffs because of the extremely harsh winter.”
Unemployment numbers rose in all counties in the Grand Traverse region this winter, peaking in February. Grand Traverse County had the lowest unemployment rate in the region at 8.2 percent for February. Others included Kalkaska, 11.9 percent, Antrim, 12.3 percent and Benzie, also at 12.3 percent.