Employment outlook in UP, Michigan not looking bright

HOUGHTON – While Michigan’s unemployment rate was 5.7 percent for January 2017, the unemployment rate for the Upper Peninsula was 2.2 percentage points above that of Michigan’s, according to the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives (DTMB).

“When Barack Obama became president in January 2009, Michigan had an unemployment rate of 11.2 percent,” Julie Mack stated in a Jan. 9 Mlive online article. “Almost eight years later, as Americans elected Donald Trump as Obama’s successor, the rate was down to 4.9 percent.”

While the Michigan job market has improved during those years, its improvement has not been constant. Nor has it proven prosperous to nearly half of Michigan residents.

While Michigan’s job market has shown improvement since 2012, a report released by the Michigan Association of United Ways (UW) states that 40 percent of Michigan households — more than 1.5 million — do not have sufficient income to pay for the necessities, which includes housing, child care, food, health care, taxes and transportation.

The UW’s study, called the ALICE (Asset-Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) Report, looks at households defined by the UW as earning more than the federal poverty level but less than the basic cost of living for the state (ALICE threshold). Of Michigan’s 3.86 million households, 15 percent earn below the FPL and another 25 percent are ALICE.

“In Michigan, 62 percent of jobs pay less than $20 per hour, with 69 percent of those paying less than $15 per hour,” the report states. “The most common occupation in Michigan, retail sales, pays a wage that is well below what is needed to make ends meet.”

The UW report states that the more than 144,300 retail salespeople make an average of $10.06 per hour, or $20,120 if working full-time year round.

These jobs fall short of meeting the family “household survival budget” by more than $36,000 per year for a family of four. Even if both parents worked full time at this wage, they would fall short of the household survival budget by more than $15,000 per year.

A full-time job that pays $15 per hour grosses $30,000 per year, well below the $56,064 household survival budget for a family of four in Michigan, the UW report states.