Category Archives: Unemployment

April jobless rate drops to 8.3 percent amid reports of slow improvement

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By Rick Pluta

Michigan’s
unemployment rate fell to eight-point-three percent in April, a drop of
two-tenths of a percentage point. That news came amid predictions that
Michigan’s economic recovery will continue, but at a slower pace than it has.

George
Fulton is a University of Michigan economist.

He said Michigan’s jobless rate remains high, but the state has been outpacing the
nation in creating new jobs.

“The largest job gains have been
the higher wage sector and we see job growth continuing for the next few years,
but not quite at the pace we saw last year.”

Fulton
said that’s largely because of an expected slowdown in car and truck sales,
plus overall slow growth in the national economy. He said that is threatened by
instability in the European economy that could derail progress on this side of
the Atlantic.

Still
the mostly good economic news was enough to convince state budget officials to
up their revenue projections based on expected income improvements and more
consumer spending. 

Copyright 2012, MPRN

Company honored for employing veterans

By Amanda Harrison

Military veterans are one of the groups with a high rate of unemployment. Now one Michigan corporation is working to fix that.

Kalitta Air and it’s service maintenance division, STS Aviation of Oscoda, were honored Wednesday for their commitment to hiring veterans.

Michigan Veterans’ Services Division presented an award to the employers honoring them for having a 30 percent veteran workforce.    

Connie Kalitta is the owner of Kalitta Air. He said hiring veterans is just common sense.   

“It’s a quality of the people, they’ve all had good training from the military. Because we’re in the maintenance business many of the people that we have hired that are veterans have had some sort of maintenance background before they get here. It’s a mutual relationship with them,  they bring us good service, quality work and they make good employees.”  

Kalitta says it is an honor to be recognized by the Michigan Veterans’ Services Division. 

Snyder: 2012 not the time for right to work

By Rick Pluta

A law signed Wednesday makes Indiana the first right-to-work state in the industrial Midwest. That has stirred discussions in Michigan on the topic. Governor Rick Snyder was asked for his thoughts on right to work as he testified in Washington D-C before a congressional committee.
            
The question was posed by an Indiana lawmaker. Governor Snyder did not rule out Michigan becoming a right-to-work state sometime in the future, but said that debate should not take place in 2012. 

“We have many problems in Michigan that are much more pressing, that I want to find common ground issues that we can work together on before we get into divisive issues.”

The governor says roads, public transit, and connecting the chronically unemployed to jobs are all higher priorities.

But Republican state Representative Mike Shirkey said having a right-to-work state next door in Indiana could force the governor and the Legislature to confront the question. 

“I am dismayed by the fact that they beat us to it, but I am happy to have the additional help.”
   
Shirkey said he hopes to have a right-to-work bill introduced before the Legislature begins its spring break in May.
 
Copyright 2010, MPRN

Michigan migration balances out

For the first time in six years, the number of people moving into and out of Michigan has evened out.

Up until last year, the trend had been for people to move out of the state.

The figures come from Atlas Van Lines, a major international moving and shipping company.

They labeled Michigan as a balanced state in 2011, meaning the number of people leaving the state was just about equal to the number of people entering it.

That’s the first time Michigan has been labeled as “balanced” since 2004. Over the next six years, more people were leaving the state than entering it.

The migration numbers show that Michigan’s economy is slowly improving. Unemployment rates have dropped from a high of 14-point-one percent in August, 2009 to nine-point-eight percent in November of last year.

Legislature working on unemployment benefits changes

By Laura Weber

State lawmakers approved a measure that would make it harder for people who are out of work to receive unemployment benefits.

Republican state Representative Wayne Schmidt said the measure would discourage fraudulent claims by people who are capable of finding jobs.

“To make sure that those who are truly impacted by this economy, who have lost work due to no fault of their own, have those unemployment insurance payments there, and that they’re not going to people who just want to sit there and do nothing.”

The Legislature also approved a proposal to issue bonds to pay off the state’s debt to the federal government for unemployment benefits loans. The bills now head to Governor Rick Snyder.

Copyright 2010, MPRN

MI jobless rate drops for third consecutive month

By Rick Pluta

Michigan’s unemployment rate has dropped a third consecutive month and now stands at nine-point-eight percent. That’s the lowest the rate has been in more than three years. But, there’s good and bad news in the numbers.
     
The jobless rate fell by eight-tenths of a percentage point in November. That’s a sharp drop and much of it was due to new hiring. But retail was the only sector to show significant growth from month to month and much of the decline is also due to about 19 thousand fewer people in the workforce competing for available jobs. All told, there are still about 457 thousand people in Michigan without jobs and looking for work. 

At nine-point-eight percent, the state’s unemployment rate is still above the national rate. When people who have quit looking are counted, along with part-time workers who’d like to be full-time, Michigan’s rate of unemployment and under-employment is 18-point-eight percent. 

Copyright 2010, MPRN

Snyder outlines workforce plans

By Rick Pluta

Governor Rick Snyder was at Delta College near Saginaw Thursday to deliver a message on education and worker training. The governor said there is a mismatch between the skills workers have, and what employers are looking for.

Governor Snyder said the state could immediately drop its jobless rate by filling 77 thousand positions that are vacant because workers don’t have the skills to fill them.
  
The governor rolled a web portal that will help people chart out a career path by identifying prospective employers and the skills they are looking for.

“We were missing the basics of economics, there’s a demand side. Not to force people on a path, but to say: here’s a better opportunity, a better match because you should want to go on that path because you know there’s opportunity.”
    
The governor also wants to allow some people to collect unemployment benefits while they start a business. And he said the state needs to focus more on helping veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, who have a jobless rate that’s almost three times higher than the state’s overall unemployment rate.
 
Copyright 2010, MPRN

Senate approves unemployment benefits changes

By Laura Weber

Republicans at the state Capitol have unveiled a plan to limit the issues over which lawmakers can be recalled. The Senate Republican proposal is in response to the swath of recall campaigns against lawmakers this year, most of them against the G-O-P.

The proposed state constitutional amendment would require a lawmaker to have committed a serious crime or malfeasance while in office in order to be recalled. If the Legislature approves the proposal it would require voter approval to amend the Michigan Constitution.

Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville said lawmakers should not be threatened with recall for the way they vote on controversial issues.

“This is the beginning of a discussion, I think it’s an important one, because we’re talking about taxpayer dollars in some ways being used for nothing more than political posturing or gathering of information.”

Republican state Representative Paul Scott was recalled last month in part because of his support for changes to teacher tenure rules. The recall campaign against Scott was funded largely by the Michigan Education Association teachers’ union.

Copyright 2010, MPRN

Governor to outline workforce training plans

By Rick Pluta

Governor Rick Snyder will deliver his fifth special message of the year Thursday at Delta College near Saginaw. The governor will outline a strategy to better match worker skills to positions that are available right now.

The governor is looking for ways to bring down Michigan’s persistently high unemployment rate.

More than one in 10 working-age people in Michigan are unemployed and actively seeking jobs. Governor Snyder is expected to say one big problem is too few people with skills that match positions that are available right now in fields like welding and software design.
 
Sara Wurfel is the governor’s press secretary. She said the governor believes employers will respond if workers pick up new, in-demand skills.  

“He believes the Number One most-important recourse Michigan has is its talent, its people, and the skills and the background that they bring.”

The governor is expected to say the state and educators need to do a better job of identifying employment trends and the skills businesses will be looking for. Snyder’s predecessor, Governor Jennifer Granholm, also made job training a high priority.

Copyright 2010, MPRN

Fewer job seekers leads to lower Michigan unemployment rate

By Rick Pluta

Michigan’s unemployment rate fell by half a percentage point last month to 10-point-six percent. That means nearly half a million people statewide are out of work and looking for a job.

The state’s been slowly adding jobs in manufacturing, business services, and healthcare. Eight thousand jobs were added from September to October, said Bruce Weaver. He’s with the state agency that tracks jobs data.

“But the main reason why the rate went down was there were just fewer workers seeking jobs.”

That’s because they either quit looking or left Michigan to look for work.  

When discouraged job seekers and part-timers who can’t find full-time work are also counted, the state’s rate of unemployment and under-employment is 19 percent.

The most job losses were due to government layoffs.  

A report this week by the firm I-H-S Global Insight forecasts employment in Michigan won’t return to pre-recession levels until 2017, and perhaps later than that.

Copyright 2010, MPRN

DHS reviewing assets test for food assistance

By Rick Pluta

Governor Rick Snyder said the state Department of Human Services is reviewing whether cars and trucks should be counted as part of an assets test for families on food assistance.

Critics quickly took aim at the policy, saying people should not have to get rid of their vehicles to qualify for food assistance in a state with the nation’s third-highest jobless rate.

Governor Snyder said there were enough complaints to warrant a second look at the rule.

“That’s a valid concern that they should be looking at and addressing and they are making a review of that topic.”

“We don’t think there should be an asset test at all.”

Judy Putnam of the Michigan League for Human Services said most states do not require an assets test for food assistance and, of those that do, only two include family cars and trucks.

“Revisiting the vehicle inclusion in the asset limit is a great idea.”

There’s no word on how long the Department of Human Services review will take. About 34 thousand people lost benefits when the new rule was enacted a month ago.

Copyright 2010, MPRN

State, unions reach contract deal to find savings

By Rick Pluta

Governor Rick Snyder’s administration has reached a deal with unions representing 35 thousand state employees on a two-year contract beginning next year. Last week, both sides declared their negotiations were deadlocked.

The agreement averts arbitration hearings that were to begin Monday. Details on compensation and benefits are not being made public pending union ratification votes. But the tentative agreement does include some employee concessions, while the Snyder administration has agreed to examine manager-to-staff ratios and the cost of outside service contracts for possible ways to save money.

If it is approved by the members and the state Civil Service Commission, this contract will take effect in October of 2012.

The state unilaterally resolved a deadlock to come up with 265 million dollars in savings in the current fiscal year by imposing four unpaid furlough days, and not filling 367 vacancies. About two thousand corrections employees will also lose their jobs as the state closes a prison in Detroit.

Copyright 2010, MPRN

State Supreme Court in favor of eliminating judges

By Chelsea Hagger

Michigan’s top judicial official said the state has too many judges, and some of their positions should be eliminated. Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert Young has presented a plan to do that to the state House Judiciary Committee.

Chief Justice Young said a Supreme Court study found there are courts with workloads that no longer justify the number of judges they have. The report recommends eliminating 45 positions over several years.

Young said some judges don’t agree with the proposed cuts. But, he said most have accepted the reality that courts are too expensive and have too many judges.

“It may not be something all members of the judiciary relish, but I think most of us recognize it’s necessary.”

Young said Michigan taxpayers are paying more than they should be. He said he wants to make cuts in ways that won’t compromise the integrity of the judicial system and assurances that people are getting fair trials.

© Copyright 2010, MPRN

Let’s Fix Our Mistake With Welfare Limits

By Laura Weber

A Democratic state lawmaker said the Legislature should reconsider the cap on cash assistance for poor families, in light of a recent federal court ruling. A federal judge said the state must continue making welfare payments to families affected by the four year limit until the families are better notified of the changes.

Democratic state Senator Coleman Young said lawmakers should simply repeal the recent cash assistance cap.

“We have the chance to right one of the wrongs committed by this body, and to save thousands of children from starvation and homelessness.”

Republican lawmakers appeared unfazed by Young’s plea. On Republican senator said the cash assistance cap was necessary to increase self-sufficiency among struggling Michiganders.

Copyright 2010, MPRN

New welfare limits take effect Saturday

By Rick Pluta

A group of families on welfare has filed a class-action lawsuit in an effort to block a new limit on benefits that took effect Saturday. The rule sets a 48-month cap on cash assistance payments. Thousands of families will immediately lose benefits under the rule.

The payments are used to meet living expenses such as food, rent and clothing. The lawsuit said the state violated the rights of welfare clients by failing to provide them with enough notice the cutoff was coming. Governor Rick Snyder signed the law four weeks ago.

State Department of Human Services officials said everyone affected was sent multiple notices. Deputy Director Brian Rooney said efforts are also being made to connect families with other services such as job placement help.

“So we’re setting them up for as much success as we can with the limited resources that we have.”

Human services advocates said job placement is not much help in a state where more than one in 10 people who are looking can’t find work.

© Copyright 2010, MPRN

New welfare limits take effect this weekend

By Rick Pluta

This weekend, thousands of Michigan families will lose state cash assistance welfare payments. They will be the first people to hit the state’s new 48-month limit on benefits. It will also become harder for people to qualify for food assistance. This is the start of a sweeping makeover of public assistance for people in Michigan who have fallen on hard times.

October first marks the beginning of the state’s fiscal year and, with it, the state Department of Human Services will immediately close the files on 12-thousand-300 cash assistance cases. The program helps families with children or pregnant women with living expenses such as rent, utilities, food and clothing.

A total of 41 thousand people will lose benefits. About 30 thousand are children.
The only exceptions to the four-year limit are for people who are disabled and their caretakers.

“We’re really trying to get back to old-fashioned social work to help people in difficult parts of their lives get to a point where they can be self-sufficient.”

That’s Brian Rooney, a deputy director at the state Department of Human Services. He said families who lose benefits may still qualify for help with their rent, and the state is trying to connect as many as possible with private agencies and help finding jobs.

“The outreach that we have done with our community partners, different faith-based organizations, volunteers to try to provide as soft a landing as we can for people coming off of long-term cash assistance is unprecedented, really.”

But Gilda Jacobs said the state’s timing could not be worse. She is the president of the Michigan League for Human Services.

“It’s been one assault after another on low-income and unemployed people in the state.” 

More than one in 10 Michiganders is officially unemployed. Twice that many are not counted in that number because they are under-employed or have given up looking for work. Half of the unemployed in Michigan have been looking for a job for six months or more.

In addition to the new limits on cash assistance, the state will require people who receive food assistance, Bridge cards, to list their assets. People with five thousand dollars or more in savings or non-retirement investments, or a personal car with a market value of 15 thousand dollars or more will be cut off. 

“Sounding like it should.”

Jim Alfredson is a self-employed musician, music teacher, and piano tuner. Married. Father of three young daughters. He said every part of his business has slowed down as the economy’s grown worse. Alfredson said he’s grateful for food assistance, which some months is a quarter of his household income.

“We appreciate it because it’s the one thing that’s constant in what I do. Every month is different. Some months are great. Some months are really bad. But we know that at the very least we can afford groceries.”

But his family was told that, as of October first, they are no longer eligible for benefits based on the value of two cars. Both are used as family and business vehicles. Alfredson said food assistance helps to keep families like his in the middle class.

“It seems like a lot of the families that we know are in the same situation. The situation looks good on the outside, but they’re just one transmission failure away from bankruptcy.”

“There is a big storm coming…”

Scott Dzurka is with the United Way of Michigan. He said the state and not-for-profit groups are trying to plot a new course for public assistance in Michigan. But Dzurka said that’s a big job. The people losing benefits this weekend, he says, are just the first wave of people who will be looking elsewhere for help when the state cuts them off.
   
“This population that rolls off in October, while significant, we’re also going to continue to also continue see month by month more of that population roll off of their benefits, so we’re going to continue to see this for some time.”

He said the next big challenge will come in January, when a new wave of thousands of long-term unemployed people will need help after they lose their extended jobless benefits.

© Copyright 2010, MPRN

Levin throws support behind jobs bill

By Mike Horace

President Obama was in North Carolina today, promoting the jobs bill unveiled last week.

Some Michigan lawmakers are throwing their
support behind the legislation as well, including Senator Carl Levin.

Levin said if passed, the American Jobs Act would create at least
one-point-five million jobs, providing a much needed shot in the arm for
the economy.

“The best way to do that, one of the best ways, is investing in the
infrastructure, which has been neglected. So we got all kinds of roads
and bridges and surface transportation, and other infrastructure, ports
that need to be dredged. We have a jobs need out there, and this is one
way of getting jobs created very quickly, and they’re good paying jobs.”

Republicans remain on the fence about many of the president’s proposals, and appear more likely to support tax cuts than new federal spending.

Levin said he’s hopeful the two sides can reach an agreement.

Bridge card stripped for those who have outstanding warrants

The Michigan House has approved legislation making it easier to pull people with outstanding warrants off state welfare rolls.

State Representative Jon Bumstead sponsored the legislation.

He said it allows the state police and the Department of Human Services
to work together to identify bridge card recipients that have
outstanding warrants.

“Collaboration is what we’re looking at in the State of Michigan, and
this is one example of what we’re working towards. They can work
together, back and forth with crosschecking references. And if somebody
has warrants for arrest, they can be taken off their assistance.” Said Bumstead.

According to the non-partisan House Fiscal Agency, the information
sharing effort could remove nearly 6-thousand people with outstanding
warrants from assistance programs.

The legislation still must be approved by the state senate.

Snyder signs four-year assistance cap, GOP says more welfare reforms on the way

By Rick Pluta

Governor Rick Snyder has signed legislation that would end cash assistance welfare benefits after a family has been receiving payments for 48 months or more. The new law counts benefits going back to 2007.

About 12-thousand-600 cases many of them families with children, will close and lose their benefits when the law takes effect on October first. Governor Snyder’s administration said caseworkers will still make sure families who lose benefits will continue to get Medicaid coverage, food assistance, and help with training and job searches.

Republican state lawmakers said this won’t be the final word this year on changes in the welfare system. The state House could vote as soon as this week on more limits to public assistance including making sure automatic teller machines in casinos cannot accept Bridge Cards to make cash withdrawals, and canceling the cards of people with outstanding warrants. 

© Copyright 2010, MPRN

State will not send layoff notices while talks continue

By Rick Pluta

Governor Rick Snyder has decided not to dangle the threat of layoffs in front of thousands of state employees while contract negotiations continue. Thursday was the deadline to send out 30-day warning notices before the state’s new fiscal year begins October first.

The Snyder administration is looking for 265 million dollars in employee savings to keep the budget balanced.

Sara Wurfel is the governor’s press secretary. She said the decision signals the governor’s confidence that a deal can be reached with state employee unions without resorting to layoffs, unpaid vacation days, and other stop-gap budget fixes.

“This governor is a big believer in structural fixes and really wants to avoid coming back to do the one-time things of the past that haven’t achieved the stability the state needs.”

Wurfel said the decision not to send notices does not rule out layoffs or any other contingency plans later on.

The administration wants employees to pay more of their health care costs. Unions said the state pays too much for managers and privatized services.

© Copyright 2010, MPRN

University presidents say college is still affordable

By Laura Weber

A coalition of Michigan’s public university officials said a college tuition is still affordable, despite increases in tuition. A report from the Presidents Council said need-based financial aid is on the rise, and universities are covering more student costs.

Michael Boulous is with the council. He said a college education is more important than ever for workers in Michigan.  

“The number of jobs for workers with high school diplomas is shrinking rapidly. In many cases, entire industries that employed these workers are vanishing. Unemployment for people who have gone to college is half the rate it is for those who have only a high school diploma.” Said Boulous.

The report said merit-based scholarships have decreased slightly over the past few years. But the report said need-based financial aid has nearly doubled in that time. The report said the average student pays about 48-hundred dollars in tuition at a public university. School officials said about two-thirds of students qualify for financial aid.

© Copyright 2010, MPRN

Legislature sends more controversial bills to Gov

BY LAURA WEBER

The state Legislature has approved a four-year lifetime cap on cash assistance welfare benefits for poor families.

Human services advocates say tens-of-thousands of people receiving cash assistance are ill-prepared for the change.

The cap on cash assistance would begin October first, and the Michigan League for Human Services estimates the move would affect 25-thousand children. The group had hoped Republican lawmakers would reconsider the measure.

Democratic state Senator Gretchen Whitmer said she is not surprised that the bills moved quickly.

“Well, unfortunately, with Republican domination in Lansing, this is what you get. And it’s sad news for a lot of families in the state of Michigan.”

The Legislature also approved a bill that would require teachers and local government employees to pay more for their health care benefits. Both measures head to Governor Rick Snyder for his signature. Republican leaders said the measures are critical to maintaining a balanced budget.

© Copyright 2010, MPRN

Switching to natural gas would create jobs in MI

BY LAURA WEBER

A new report authored by a Michigan State University economist said there could be a short-term boom in construction jobs if Michigan energy companies switched from coal to natural gas.

Professor Bill Knudson said as many as 19-thousand new construction jobs at electricity plants would cause unemployment to dip by about four-tenths of a percentage point.

“That’s a one-time impact that occurs during the construction phase. Once the construction phase is over, then that economic impact kind of disappears.”

Knudson said a few thousand natural-gas jobs could remain, and there would be a negative impact on the coal industry. But Knudson’s report also said coal comes from outside of the state and natural gas is in abundant supply in Michigan. The report which was commissioned by the not-for-profit Energy Foundation does not consider how the natural gas would be attained, such as through controversial method of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.”

© Copyright 2010, MPRN

MEA releases a critical list of unions

K-12 schools are scheduled to begin September 6th but several Michigan teacher unions are still without a contract.

Rosemarry Carry is with the MEA. She said her organization released a critical list of unions she said are struggling.

“A critical List is a listing of those who are having difficulty in bargaining, difficulty in reaching a settlements, usually they are on the list because they’ve been bargaining for quite a long time.”

Carry said the list informs people as to what is going on in their school. And encourages other school unions to show their support.

Schools on the list include Flint and Port Huron.

She said union members will continue to work without contracts this upcoming school year.

Students will not be affected.

Unemployment in Michigan on the rise

BY LAURA WEBER

Michigan’s unemployment rate is on the rise. That’s according to new state jobless numbers out Wednesday.

The jobless rate in Michigan rose four-tenths of a percentage point in July to 10-point-nine percent. That’s nearly two percentage points above the national average.

Thirty-three-thousand jobs were lost in Michigan in July, according to the Michigan Department of Technology, Management, and Budget. However, there were job gains in government, manufacturing, education and health services.

The unemployment rate in Michigan was lower this July than the year before, by one-and-a-half percentage points.

Copyright 2010, MPRN