State's jobless rate steadies

Michigan's seasonally adjusted unemployment is little changed in the latest monthly report, standing at 7.7 percent.
AP Wire
Jan 31, 2014

The Department of Technology, Management & Budget said Thursday that the statewide unadjusted jobless rate for December was down 0.1 percentage points from November's 7.8 percent. The rate has fallen 1.2 percentage points from December 2012's 8.9 percent.

The department said December unemployment rates ranged from a low of 5.2 percent in the Ann Arbor region to a high of 12.6 percent in the northeastern Lower Peninsula. The rate was 8 percent in the populous Detroit area.

The Ottawa County jobless rate edged up a tenth of a point to 5.9 percent.

The state said the increases reflect fairly typical seasonal employment changes.

Michigan's major labor market areas, their seasonally unadjusted jobless rates for December, followed by November:

— Michigan, 7.7 percent, compared with 7.8 percent.

— Ann Arbor, 5.2 percent, compared with 5.3 percent.

— Battle Creek, 6.6 percent, compared with 6.5 percent.

— Bay City, 8.3 percent, compared with 7.9 percent.

— Detroit-Warren-Livonia, 8 percent, compared with 8.3 percent.

— Flint, 8.8 percent, compared with 9 percent.

— Grand Rapids-Wyoming, 5.6 percent, unchanged.

— Holland-Grand Haven, 5.9 percent, compared with 5.8 percent.

— Jackson, 8 percent, compared with 7.9 percent.

— Kalamazoo-Portage, 6.8 percent, compared with 6.7 percent.

— Lansing-East Lansing, 6.3 percent, compared with 6.2 percent.

— Monroe, 7.1 percent, compared with 7.3 percent.

— Muskegon-Norton Shores, 8.1 percent, compared with 7.9 percent.

— Niles-Benton Harbor, 8.3 percent, compared with 8.1 percent.

— Saginaw-Saginaw Township North, 8.1 percent, unchanged.

— Upper Peninsula, 9.5 percent, compared with 9 percent.

— Northeast Lower Michigan, 12.6 percent, compared with 11.6 percent.

— Northwest Lower Michigan, 9.8 percent, compared with 9.2 percent.

Source: Michigan Department of Technology, Management & Budget.



Say no to new taxes

And it's going to be 70 degrees and sunny Saturday.

Former Grandhavenite

I take it you're not entirely confident in the accuracy of the unemployment numbers as they're reported here. Out of curiosity is it more a problem of flawed methodology, or political bias, or something else entirely in your view?

What (if anything) could the researchers do that would make you trust these numbers to the extent that you'd be willing to use them to make business decisions, personal finance decisions, etc? I work with the unemployment numbers and other economic indicators from different governmental and private sources all the time in my work as a statistician and economist, so I'm probably WAAY too interested in this stuff! It's always nice to get a fresh take on things from people who don't spend all day looking at this stuff.

Say no to new taxes

You study your charts and graphs and I'll continue to talk to business owners, employees, college graduates who can't find work (not counted), people who use to make $20 per hour and now make half that (not counted), former workers that have run out of unemployment benefits (not counted), people who have been forced to take social security early because they cannot find a job (not counted).You don't need a PHD in economics to see that Wall Street is being propped up by Ben Bernake's printing press and near zero interest rates, that the defined benefit pension system can't meet it's future obligations, that car sales are only good because we have once again relaxed lending standards, that Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae continue to lose billions on home loans. The list goes on and on.

Former Grandhavenite

Fair enough. I would argue that what researchers do when they gather economic data is nothing more than a systematized way of "talking to business owners, employees, college graduates who can't find work" etc. Everybody knows some people who are struggling to find jobs (or the jobs they want). Everyone also could point to a few people who are fortunate enough to have jobs matching their skill set. This was true in the boom of the late 90's, and also true in the bust of the late 00's. Anecdotes are useful in understanding an individual's economic circumstances, but not those of an entire state or country.

All that the economic indicators do (at least, what they're supposed to do) is to turn those millions of individual stories and anecdotes into measures that can be compared over time and that reflect the entire population instead of being dependent on the specific mix of random individual folks that any given person knows.

There are a bunch of competing ways of measuring and defining the unemployment rate. They each have their own strengths and weaknesses. In general, people who made $20/hour and are now making $10/hour would be counted as employed so you're right that the unemployment rate can't tell you anything about that, and isn't intended to. Other indicators like per capita income, payroll tax revenue, etc would reflect that drop in income. Whether or not someone is getting unemployment benefits, social security, or any other form of income aside from a job doesn't impact the unemployment rate, since again that would be reflected in other indicators like weekly benefit claims, the labor force participation rate, and such.

I completely get (I think) your obvious frustration. It "feels wrong" to only look at the overall indicators instead of focusing on the stories of individuals, because we should care more about people than charts and graphs, right? The numbers aren't measuring what a lot of us intuitively think they're measuring, but I don't think that makes them a scam or something. Hey, they don't call economics "the dismal science" for nothing!


What are your thoughts on income inequality?


I think along the lines of Robert Reich personally...


Great article! Robert Reich always makes sense to me. He's catching flak on his TPP opposition, tho!

Former Grandhavenite

I agree with Reich for the most part. I also would suggest that things simply haven't gotten bad enough yet for a revolution to occur (either at the ballot box or in the streets). Unemployment would have to be more like 50% and similar numbers would have to be homeless or starving before there was agitation for an armed rebellion, or at least some aggressive New Deal-style policies to head off a revolt. Conservatives generally hate the New Deal, but there was a real possibility of an armed communist revolution in the depths of the Great Depression if the New Deal hadn't been there to prevent it.

The rise of an actual leftist party or a constitutional amendment to get money out of politics is a more realistic form of revolution if the Democrats continue on the trajectory that they've been on since the Clinton era of essentially sugarcoating and repackaging conservative policies for consumption by folks who consider themselves liberal or progressive.

I'd hoped that Obama's election would be a revolution of sorts, not just for the country but for the Democratic party as well. I used to believe that the mainstream D's were simply cowards who were unwilling to fight for their beliefs, but I've become more convinced that their actual beliefs are fairly closely aligned with Republicans. The top tier of the capitalist/investor class wised up and started bribing both parties. Seeing the moronic Democrats vote in favor of the invasion of Iraq was truly heartbreaking, and I'll never be able to trust Hillary Clinton after that vote. The disgraceful 99-1 Senate vote to authorize the PATRIOT act was also a new low. Naturally, the only senator with the integrity to vote in favor of the constitution(Russ Feingold) was booted out in favor of yet another generic corporatist. There would also need to be a charismatic leader to rally support for either type of revolution, and folks like that are in short supply all across the political spectrum. Bernie Sanders is pretty much the only left-of-center senator left, and much as I like him, he doesn't have the gravitas to be that leader.


Re: the lead-up to the Iraq War and the Democrat vote in favor of the invasion - I believe the unity of the country and support of Bush after 9/11 was so strong, and the belief that Saddam Hussein was in fact in kahoots with bin Laden was so propagandized and accepted by most citizens, that the Democrats really had no choice but to follow along. And especially Hillary, the revered and popular senator from 9/11 Ground Zero, could hardly have turned her back on her constituency and voted against the invasion.

There are really no words to adequately express how badly Bush/Cheney served and ultimately damaged this country with the swift, neo-con-influenced rush to war, the resultant pile-up of debt, and the subsequent severe recession.


"Much has been made of growing income inequality since 1979, but very little attention has been paid to which of the four presidental administrations preceding Barack Obama increased income equality and which ones reduced it. In short, the two presidents whose terms involved improving income equality were the two George Bushes and the two whose terms were associated with worsening after-tax income equality were Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton. It is probably not an accident that the two presidents in whose administrations the GDP grew the most were the two presidents whose time in office coincided with worsening income equality."

"The president under whom the poorest quintile enjoyed the largest increase in after-tax household income was George W. Bush. And the two administrations under whom the richest quintile and richest 1 percent fared the worst were the two Presidents Bush. Among Barack Obama’s four immediate predecessors, the two biggest income equalizers were George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush.

Just to be clear, I am not pining for the good old days of the economy of George W. Bush."

Trashing Bush and the economy he left (as some commenters do) only makes my case stronger. The presidents who were best on income equality (the Bushes) were not the best on the economy overall (Clinton and Reagan). Almost any decent person not driven by envy would favor the Bill Clinton economy to the George W. Bush economy because income inequality should be a relatively minor concern, given the appalling lack of jobs today, particularly for the younger generation. The post is designed to imply that there are many things more important than income equality, such as economic growth, jobs, and increasing opportunities, but I thought most of you would appreciate the information in the post without a detailed policy prescription from me."

The whole article is interesting if various political blinders are removed, both left and right.


It is interesting article, but one I don't find particularly relevant, in the long-term. When viewed within a statistical framework, the overall continual rise in inequality regardless of who is president is immediately apparent. Look at these images:

The degree of income inequality present today precludes the idea that it just sprung up overnight, under the control of one particular party or president. It has taken decades to get to this point, and it will likely take decades to balance out a bit, if even possible at this point.

Conservative conventional wisdom has been that inequality is necessary for growth, and a more successful business climate will automatically mean a more successful economy, lower employment, and a stronger middle class. This was true at one time when the rate of inequality was not so high, but it is clear without a doubt that high inequality suppresses middle-class wages, produces economic instability, and produces bad political incentives. In addition, the global economy has created an environment where there is now major competition for US corporate investment (and that goes both ways - many major US businesses have been bought with foreign investment capital); tax laws encourage off-shore capital investment; and there is now unprecedented global hoarding of money (well over a trillion $$ globally) versus investing in workers.

The vast number of economists and statistics tell the same story - income inequality directly relates to, and greatly influences,-over time-, economic growth, jobs, and increasing opportunities. Obama is correct in stating that income inequality is "the defining challenge of our time". It is too important to the future of this country to relegate it to the dustbins of petty political partisanship. And, by the way, another big deterrent to corporate investment - the uncertainty in politics. The GOP method of governing via threats to (and actually doing so) shut down the government and/or initiate a debt ceiling crisis with corresponding default of the US government is a major contributor to the stagnant economy, unemployment, and decreasing opportunities, and further weakens the US, in addition to it simply being a really dumb thing to do.


Rather than simply engaging on some of the claims you have made, and partisan political points you attempted to weave in, maybe there is common ground to be had.

If you believe the study I cited in another comment from the liberal Brookings Institution, and similar studies from the conservative Heritage Foundation, and other similar academic studies like the recent one from Harvard on upward mobility and marriage, then we can agree that there are some basic, uncomplicated steps to follow to take folks into the middle class - get a high school education, get a full time job, and wait until you are 21 to get married and have children.

With the understanding that these steps are infinitely more difficult for many, especially poor and minority teens, one would think that the government would concentrate its efforts on getting this message across, easing the burdens to follow the steps, and eliminating programs and ideologies that tend to hinder achievement of these relatively modest goals. That does not mean throwing more dollars at the problem, nor punishing the people who followed the steps (the Middle Class) or even those that won the "sperm lottery."

What used to be called the "Wealth Gap" until it was re-branded by the Occupy Movement as "Income Inequality" has been growing since the 70's. If we looked at the programs that are hindering success, and the best allocation of our resources, we would have to seriously question job-killing policies. We might disagree on some specific policies, but we can identify many just from statistical analyses. Likewise, we would have to question policies and programs than tend to encourage and enable: (1) substandard education; (2) promiscuity and sex by those under 21; (3) single motherhood (including those that make it more profitable for men to not be in the home) and those that make it more reasonable for people to accept long term Government transfer payments as an alternative to work). Again, we would undoubtedly disagree on some, but objective analysis would force agreement on many.

If both sides of the political spectrum would agree that following the tried and true steps to financial independence and a middle class lifestyle is a reasonable and achievable goal (and would result in concomitant benefits to the economy and Government tax intake), I think we as a country could make great progress toward bridging the gap between the rich and the poor. If there is no agreement, and the ideas are demonized as part of a class warfare political strategy, the partisan divide will only grow, and the economy (and lives of the poor) will continue to diminish.


Unfortunately, if one accepts your three steps to middle class advancement, there are societal pressures that also have to be addressed.

#1 - Ours is a society that glorifies and venerates some form of violence in nearly everything - entertainment, sports, literature.

#2 - Our is a society that promotes some form of sexualization of our young girls and boys.

#3 - In many families, youth often don't get the ongoing nurturing, attention, tutoring, or the guidance/instruction they need because parents are both working, sometimes more than one job, and struggling to stay afloat.

Although I want to agree with your statement, "I think we as a country could make great progress toward bridging the gap between the rich and the poor. If there is no agreement, and the ideas are demonized as part of a class warfare political strategy, the partisan divide will only grow, and the economy (and lives of the poor) will continue to diminish", I have the niggling feeling that you are, in fact, demonizing through a partisan political strategy.


The three steps are not mine, they are shown to be true statistically by many studies, including the Brookings Institution.

Your response is the best evidence I have that the partisan divide will continue to grow and the economy will continue to diminish. And, I can only guess at the response if I used the word "niggling"....


I see. Of all the points that could be expounded upon in this entire thread, you choose to focus on the words "your" and "niggling". It's my fault - I just keep doing it!

Tri-cities realist

And for all the points Vlad raises, you don't confront them, but rather try to do an end around, by slightly changing the subject.

Former Grandhavenite

Far worse than the inequality itself is what we as a society allow to be bought and sold with that wealth. When the very top rungs of the capitalist/investor class are allowed to completely and utterly dominate the political agenda through our system of legalized bribery, it's only natural that the government becomes less and less responsive to the average citizen.

I see this as a problem for everyone, not just the poor. At some point the top of the economic pyramid has a significant reduction in quality of life as more and more people are economically marginalized. Given the choice between being middle class in Sweden, or in the top .001% in Haiti, the middle class option is more attractive.

If you're at the very top in terms of wealth, everyone is gunning for you figuratively speaking (or literally if things get bad enough!) The .001%er in Haiti needs a large force of armed guards for protection at all times, and at some point all the money in the world won't do you any good if you and your family can't leave the mansion for fear of being kidnapped for ransom by one of the 99.999% who have no realistic way of making money otherwise. Since you needed that big tax break on capital gains, the kid who would be sitting in a classroom normally is kept occupied by breaking into your car instead. The police and public servants that would help protect your interests normally are paid so little that they rely on corruption to make ends meet. Your financial empire of companies may control the entire economy, but you're forced to spend a larger and larger percentage of your wealth on constant bribes to keep your companies from being shut down by corrupt officials who would be making a decent salary otherwise. Your position as king of the hill becomes more and more tenuous as the number of would-be kings grows and the shortage of hills becomes more pronounced.

On a more basic level, the wealthy need the poor and middle class as customers. Henry Ford was onto something when he decided to pay his workers well above the prevailing wage of the time, since they could then actually buy the product themselves and greatly increase sales and profits. He was smart enough to realize that reducing inequality is often good for business as well.


"Far worse than the inequality itself is what we as a society allow to be bought and sold with that wealth. When the very top rungs of the capitalist/investor class are allowed to completely and utterly dominate the political agenda through our system of legalized bribery, it's only natural that the government becomes less and less responsive to the average citizen."

Call me old fashioned, but I always believed that in our Constitutional Republic, we could spend our money on whatever we want (including First Amendment political free speech) unless it was illegal. On the other hand, I appreciate your noticing that if the very top rungs of the capital/investor class are completely dominating the political system, we understand how Obama was re-elected and the Senate remained Democrat.

As far as Haiti is concerned, those within the "99%" here would be part of the 1% in Haiti, and could afford the security measures you cited.

Considering that most employment here is generated by small business, on the most basic level the Middle Class needs every consumer as customers. Killing jobs by government mandate of raising the minimum wage has not, and will not, accomplish that.

Former Grandhavenite

"Call me old fashioned, but I always believed that in our Constitutional Republic, we could spend our money on whatever we want (including First Amendment political free speech) unless it was illegal."

I think that's the catch. We've decided as a society that you can't spend your money on a nuclear warhead because of the great potential for harm, and I wish we would make that same determination about spending your money on a politician. Unfortunately the Citizens United ruling is the law of the land now. It means I'm stuck with the Koch Brothers and you're stuck with George Soros, and they all get to hide behind front organizations with feelgood names like "Americans For Prosperity, Mothers, and Apple Pie", and neither of us actually has any influence over the people who are supposed to be representing us. Red and blue are not the colors of politics in America- but green sure is.

If buying the policies you want is considered free speech, then let's apply another aspect of free speech to it and declare it obscene and therefore illegal. I disagree with classifying any speech as obscene, but for better or worse that's been the standard for when it's acceptable to restrict speech. Like the Supreme Court justice famously said regarding the definition of obscenity, "I know it when I see it". In this case I definitely see it, and it looks an awful lot like bribery.

You're definitely right about Obama being a Wall Street president, although in all fairness every modern president has been a Wall Street president. Conservatives should be careful what they wish for regarding money in politics as the new rising crop of billionaires in Silicon Valley tends to be fairly liberal.


Spending money (or writing in a comment section in a local newspaper) is hardly the equivalent of buying a nuclear warhead, unless one is so twisted that they equate expressing a political opinion with purchasing a weapon of mass destruction.

Being stuck with the Koch Brothers on the one hand, and Soros on the other, is vastly more acceptable under a free society than a system where the government decides what speech is acceptable and which speech is not - Understanding the meaning of assume, I guess you would agree with that - if not, I guess we could be living in the old East Germany, North Korea, or Cuba. I happen to like and respect free speech, even if it is from individuals or big money institutions (like Koch, Soros, or SEIU).

If you want to move to obscenity, consider that what's on our public airwaves today would make Lenny Bruce and George Carlin bluenoses.

The big money has gone to Democrats for a number of years now - it's just that the media continues to portray Republicans as the party of the rich, without looking closely at Goldman Sachs contributions (of both money and White House rainmakers) to both parties. You know that's the truth.

Former Grandhavenite

It's a weird position to find myself arguing against "free speech", but I never thought we'd see campaign contributions defined as such. I'd suggest that the potential harm to society through legalized bribery is maybe even greater than that of WMDs. A bad president can do a LOT of damage, including starting wars and restructuring huge parts of the economy. There are plenty of people out there with agendas to push and the cash to swing a close election.

Imagine your least favorite wealthy person in the world. Are you really fine with the idea that they can give unlimited money to politicians to advance what you consider the worst policies possible, and you would never even know about it? If so I admire your consistency in supporting the 'rights' of Koch, Soros, and Lex Luthor!

I wish I could find the study, but I saw something to the effect that over time the very wealthy have been growing slowly more likely to support Democrats as the industrial power base and concentration of wealth has shifted away from oil and chemicals, and more toward services and IT. I think the true heavy hitters on Wall Street will continue to buy out anyone they think has a chance of winning, which will always include both major parties. It's early to call it, but I think the winner of the 2016 election will be Goldman Sachs. I also think Wall Street will pick up several seats in Congress this fall- the only question is whether more of them will have D's or R's in front of their names.


"I happen to like and respect free speech, even if it is from individuals or big money institutions (like Koch, Soros, or SEIU)".

Ah, hah! So you DO believe Corporations are people, that Justice Alito was justified in mouthing "not true" to Obama during the SOTU address (calling him a liar), and that our Founding Fathers were referring to historically unprecedented amounts of money spent in politics as having a place within the definition of Free Speech.

You bemoan the breakdown of society in terms of the mating habits of today's youth in comparison with the more conforming parameters of ours, yet you embrace the proliferation of tax-exempt, dark money super PAC's that has led to billion dollar elections, and a 24/7 campaign/election cycle. Remember the good old days when most elections were funded by campaign committees and the respective party committees?


I believe in calling a liar a liar, which is why I have so identified Obama - it happens Alito was correct and his mouthed statement true.

Obama is also the best example of someone who has electioneered 24/7 for 7+ years now - since he is incapable of governing it's all he has. You might recall that one of his plethora of lies was that he would accept public financing, then announced he would not abide by the limits public financing placed on his campaign and would instead rely on the "dark money" you despise so, and brought Soros and The Tides Foundation to his bosom. The result of that particular lie was that Obama became the first candidate of a major party to decline public financing — and the spending limits that go with it — since the system was created in 1976, after the Watergate scandals.


Killing jobs is not predicated on taxes, government regulation, or raising the minimum wage. As far as any kind or definition of small business is concerned, the #1 killer of jobs is lack of sales. If there are not enough people with money to buy whatever thing or service a business offers, there are no jobs, no benefits, no expansion, no growth, and it doesn't matter what the tax rate is, taxes do not get paid.

In fact, I'll even go so far as to say that in terms of the vast majority of small businesses, government regulation per se has very little to do with it's success or failure. What does matter is an educated and/or trained work force, a healthy work force, a work force that understands what constitutes a work ethic.

Again, you are incorrect regarding Obama's re-election. Mitt Romney relied overwhelmingly on his network of high-dollar donors; "just 9 percent of donors to GOP front-runner Mitt Romney, by contrast, came from the lowest end of the contribution scale, the study shows. Obama raised more money in aggregate from small donors — $56.7 million — than Romney raised overall".

Moreover, in a CNN article dated July 12, 2013, the grassroots group Organizing for Action, the successor to President Barack Obama's campaign organization, reported Friday it almost doubled the amount of money it brought in during the second quarter of this year compared to the preceding three months".


Yay! Too late for me now, I gave up after 3 years of struggling to find a decent replacement job for the great one I health issues that d*** near killed me and retired.
Now I work for cash and feed pigeons in the park.
Well, I will once spring gets here and the weather warms up a bit.

Tri-cities realist

You report those cash payments on your taxes, right? Beware the NSA is likely watching.


Well, we ARE moving up in the world with this great news!
Michigan's unemployment rate is now 48 out of 51(? DC a state now?).
Seems the numbers are gathered by a UN agency, the International Labor Organization (ILO).

Say no to new taxes

Interesting discussion, good points made by everyone.

Tri-cities realist

I generally agree. Although the level of civility and intellect is a bit troubling on a site run by what some call a fish wrapper! But seriously, the cream does occasionally rise to the top on here (myself generally excluded).

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