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Thursday, September 3, 2015

Micghigan job recovery "still a myth"

Labor Day report shows Michigan’s economic recovery still a myth


Michigan League For Public Policy graph

Despite the continued decline in Michigan’s unemployment rate, a new report finds the economic recovery many are celebrating, overlooks those who have quit looking for employment.

The Michigan League for Public Policy’s report released Sept. 3, “Labor Day Report: Economic Recovery Eludes Many Michigan Families,” found that many Michigan workers have simply given up looking for work or have left the state to pursue employment elsewhere.

Many of those employed in the state have had to take part-time or low-wage jobs and are still struggling to make ends meet, and unemployment and low wages continue to disproportionately affect people of color, it said.

The latest jobless rate in Michigan was July when 5.3 percent of the state’s workforce was unemployed. More recent figures are to be released later this month.

By contrast, 71 percent of people with disabilities are not in the workforce, according to
the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
 
“I am as happy as the next person to see our state’s unemployment rate go down, but we can’t all put on rose-colored glasses and lose sight of the real economic struggles that are persisting in Michigan,” said Gilda Z. Jacobs, MLPP President and CEO.

“A third of our state’s unemployed have been out of work for more than half a year. Our state has lost nearly half a million workers since 2000. Unemployment for African-Americans is nearly 10 percent higher than it is for white workers, with their median wages almost $5 less (an hour). That doesn’t sound like recovery to me.”

The report makes several policy recommendations to bring true economic recovery for all to the state, including modernizing the unemployment system, more funding adult education and training, restoring financial aid grants for older students and raising the minimum wage.

Unemployment is down and the number of jobs is up in Michigan, but a closer analysis reveals that many of the jobs created in recent years have been low-wage, part-time jobs. Currently, 25 percent of adult workers are in low-wage jobs and 32.4 percent of working families in Michigan are low income, perpetuating the high poverty rate in the state. Michigan’s long-term unemployment rate is also still steep, with 34.8 percent of jobless workers in the state being unemployed for six months or more, said Jacobs.

In looking at the racial disparities in unemployment and wages, the Labor Day report showed that in 2014, unemployment for white workers was at 5.7 percent, with unemployment for African-Americans being almost 10 percent higher at 15.8 percent. Unemployment for Hispanic workers was 8.8 percent. In addition, for 2014, the median wages for African-Americans were $11.79 an hour, or $4.32 less an hour than the media wages for white workers.

“If we are going to truly turn our state’s economy around, we have to look at the big picture,” Jacobs said. “We need policies that reduce unemployment by creating jobs, not losing workers, and close the gap between low-income workers and the rest of the state.”

For more information, visit www.mlpp.org.

Jerry Wolffe is the writer-in-residence, advocate-at-large at the Macomb-Oakland Regional Center. He can be reached at 586-263-8950.

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