Michigan's unemployment rate continued its downward trend in July, dropping a tenth of a percent to 13.1 percent, state officials said Wednesday.
Michigan added 20,000 manufacturing jobs last month as automakers and the suppliers that normally lay off workers in the summer to retool kept the factories running because of strong demand.
"Michigan's manufacturing job market has stabilized thus far in 2010," said Rick Waclawek, director of the state's Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives.
That's a far different picture than in 2009, when the state lost nearly 90,000 manufacturing jobs.
July's report found average weekly hours and earnings rose by nearly 2 percent for transportation equipment jobs and for manufacturing jobs overall. Over the past year, transportation equipment hours have increased by nearly 4 hours a week, to 46.6, while average weekly earnings have risen nearly 4 percent, to $1,383.
Gov. Jennifer Granholm said Michigan isn't out of the woods yet, but the state is seeing net job growth for the first time in years.
"It coincides with the auto industry's comeback — 55,000 people hired year-over-year for the first time since 2000," she said Tuesday after announcing tax breaks for nine businesses that were adding or retaining jobs in Michigan. "We are starting to see some movement."
Last month's seasonally adjusted jobless rate was a full point lower than the July 2009 state rate of 14.2 percent, but remained significantly above the national rate of 9.5 percent.
Seasonally adjusted payroll jobs in the state increased by 28,000 and the number of unemployed dropped slightly. Even without the manufacturing job gains, July recorded the highest number of total payroll jobs for 2010, state officials said.
In July, 5,000 government jobs and 4,000 positions in trade, transportation and utilities were added, along with smaller numbers of jobs in education and health services, and leisure and hospitality services.
Michigan had the nation's second-highest unemployment rate in June, trailing only Nevada. It continues to see its labor force shrink as workers move or quit looking for work.