LANSING (AP)– Michigan’s unemployment rate continues to drop, shrinking from 9 percent to 8.8 percent over the past month and marking its seventh consecutive month of improvement.

February’s seasonally adjusted rate announced Wednesday by the state Department of Technology, Management and Budget was the lowest monthly mark since August 2008, when Michigan had an 8.5 percent rate right before the national economic meltdown hit. Michigan also saw its rate continue to edge nearer the national rate.

“For a number of years, Michigan’s jobless rate remained well above the national rate,” said Rick Waclawek, director of the Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives. Now, it’s only half a percentage point above the nation’s 8.3 percent rate, he added.

Total employment rose by 22,000 in February while the number of unemployed dropped by 8,000. Since February 2011, payroll jobs in Michigan have increased by 69,000, or 1.8 percent. Professional and business services, along with manufacturing, have accounted for over 80 percent of that gain.

In the past month alone, 5,000 jobs in the professional and business services sector were added, and 28,000 such jobs have been added in the past year.

Manufacturing saw a drop of 5,000 jobs in February but also remains up 28,000 jobs for the year.

The education and health services sector added 4,000 jobs last month and is up 13,000 for the year. It’s the only major industry sector to add jobs throughout the past 10 years as Michigan struggled through an economic slump, state officials said.

Around 2,000 government jobs were lost in February, and the sector has 8,000 fewer jobs than a year ago. Construction is down 2,000 jobs for the year but saw an increase of 1,000 jobs last month. After recording large drops for several years, construction jobs appear to have stabilized over the past year, officials said.

The state’s labor force declined by 28,000 workers over the past year, continuing a downward trend the state has been experiencing since 2006. That reflects the fact that some jobless workers have become discouraged and either moved away, headed back to school or otherwise quit looking for work.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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