BY KATHY GIBBONS
LANSING — Unemployment edged downward in 16 of Michigan's 17 major labor market areas in October.
Data based on seasonally unadjusted numbers released by the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget showed that for the northwestern Lower Michigan counties of Antrim, Charlevoix, Emmet, Benzie, Grand Traverse, Kalkaska, Leelanau, Manistee, Missaukee and Wexford counties, unemployment for October was at 7.5 percent.
It fell 5.3 percent in October from September, from 11,300 in September to 10,700 in October. The drop was more dramatic — 16.4 percent — when compared to October of 2011.
"I would say the decline (in unemployment) over the longer term, over the year, does reflect a gradual improvement in the economy," said Elaine Wood, chief executive officer of the Northwest Michigan Council of Governments. "I don't think there's any question that our region is slowly but surely improving economically."
Wood said October numbers may reflect seasonal hiring in preparation for the holidays. She believes businesses are still being cautious due to uncertainty over the federal government's looming "fiscal cliff" and what it will mean for taxes.
"But I think we'll see more improvements after the first of the year or in the spring," she said. "Once businesses see how the federal government is going to deal with that problem, at least they'll kind of know what path we're on, hopefully, and then it's easier for them to make decisions."
Statewide, unemployment increased 0.8 percent in October over September, going from 385,000 to 388,000. However, compared to 2011, October's numbers represented a 8.3 percent drop, with unemployment now at 8.3 percent as compared to 9.2 percent one year ago.
In a press release, Bureau of Labor Market Information & Strategic Initiatives Director Rick Waclawek said two industry sectors in particular have been a driving force in nearly all of the state's metro regions: professional and business services and manufacturing.
The largest advances since October 2011 were in the Grand Rapids-Wyoming, Holland-Grand Haven and Jackson statistical areas. The smallest was recorded in Detroit-Warren-Livonia.