Jennifer Knightstep was a researcher in the media archives at General Motors until she was laid off in 2008. Her first reaction was fear.
“I panicked for a few minutes, and then I tried to think of what I wanted to do next,” she says. “There’s not a big demand for archivists in Metro Detroit or anywhere else for that matter.”
So instead of trying to get a similar job, Knightstep decided to go in a new direction.
“I thought maybe I should start trying to do what I really wanted to do, which was be a writer.”
When she filed for unemployment, she learned about No Worker Left Behind, a program in Michigan that offered up to $10,000 in tuition for degrees in emerging industries. NWLB was scaled back in 2010 following federal funding cuts.
When most people think about growing fields, freelance writing is not the first job that comes to mind, but Knightstep made it work.
JoAnne Jachyra learned about the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program when she was laid off from her IT management job in 2009. TAA is a federal program that funds retraining for workers who lose their jobs to international competition.
Jachyra qualified for the funds and used them to go back to school, something she’s always wanted to do. “Ever since I graduated from Michigan State with a degree in astrophysics I had entertained the idea of becoming a teacher,” says Jachyra. “I had to do a process and say ‘OK well here’s what I want to do, here’s how long it’ll take, here’s how much it’ll cost.’ And part of that is they have a list and they say ‘these are the growing professions that you can get trained in because we feel that you will be able to find a job when you are done with that.’” Teaching was on that list.
Jachyra spent a year in an accelerated degree program – the cost was about $3,000 – that was paid for by the TAA. “It didn’t cost me anything other than time and a lot of effort,” says Jachyra.She got her certification to teach high school and middle school math and physics, but finding a job proved more difficult than she had expected. “I seriously thought being certified as a physics and math teacher I should be able to walk into any school in metro Detroit and have a job,” she says. Continue reading
in the case of unemployment rates in the Great Lakes states, headlines do not tell the full story.
This week, we heard that Michigan’s unemployment rate dropped to 8.8 percent, within shouting distance of the national unemployment rate, and way down from the 14 percent territory it reached during the worst of the recession.
Meanwhile, Wisconsin’s rate held steady at 6.9 percent for the second straight month, and it’s down from 9.2 percent in June 2009.
But behind the Michigan numbers lies a paradox: the state has 409,000 people out of work, but there are 76,000 job openings that can’t be filled. Gov. Rick Snyder talked about this on Wednesday at a town hall in Detroit, urging job seekers to register with the state’s talent bank.
And in Wisconsin, the unemployment rate actually rose in 27 cities whose population was more than 25,000, and in 66 counties. Continue reading
The numbers, on the surface, look encouraging: Michigan’s unemployment rate has dropped again. New claims for unemployment benefits fell this month. Manufacturing output is rising.
Ford's Rouge plant, by Charles Sheeler
But there’s another side to the jobs numbers: people simply giving up on finding work. (Take our Changing Gears survey.)
The conflicting numbers make it hard to get a clear picture of the jobs market.
Here’s what we know:
- Michigan’s unemployment rate fell to 9.3 percent in December, but the size of the workforce continues to drop, according to our partner station Michigan Radio. It says Michigan’s unemployment rate plus the “under-employment” rate (people working part time jobs because that’s all they can find, or in fields not related to their expertise) is 18.8 percent. Continue reading
Three stories making news across the Midwest today:
1. Detroit’s finances a long-term problem. In the past 45 years, the city of Detroit has recorded 19 budget surpluses and 26 budget deficits, according to the Detroit Free Press. Experts tell the newspaper the city’s debt is now so high that the city could default on unpaid bonds soon, a prelude to bankruptcy. State officials will begin a formal review of Detroit’s finances in January, which could lead to the appointment of an emergency manager. Gov. Rick Snyder said the city faces both a short-term cash-flow shortage and a longer-term structural deficit. “We can’t continue this process because Detroit has been in a financial crisis of some fashion for decades,” he tells the newspaper. “We need a long-term solution.”
2. 2011′s dubious housing distinction. The year 2011 will likely be the worst in history for new home sales. The Commerce Department said it expects the adjusted annual number to reach 315,000 by the close of this month, fewer than the 323,000 sold last year, the worst year on record dating to 1963. That’s less than half the 700,000 new homes economists tell the Associated Press are necessary to sustain a healthy market. The projection comes even as new-home sales rose 1.6 percent in November. December would need to mark its best monthly sales total in four years to avert the dubious finish.
3. Unemployment up in Chicago area. Chicago’s unemployment rate rose in November to 9.8 percent, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. The rate ticked upward one-tenth of a percentage point from 9.7 percent in October, and was up 0.9 percent year over year. The unemployment rate dropped in nine of Illinois’ 12 metro areas in November compared to 2010. Chicago’s rate remains slightly lower than the state’s overall 10.0 percent unemployment rate, which has remained nearly flat for three consecutive months. The state’s lowest unemployment rate was found in the Bloomington/Normal area, at 6.8 percent, according to the newspaper.
The national unemployment rate fell 0.4 percent in November to 8.6 percent. Michigan led the downward charge.
No state in the nation experienced a bigger drop. Michigan’s unemployment rate fell 0.8 percent in the month to 9.8 percent. It’s the first time in three years the state’s unemployment rate was less than 10 percent. Overall, 43 states reported unemployment declines in November.
The Midwest’s monthly unemployment rate edged downward 0.3 percent in November to 8.2 percent, the second-lowest of the nation’s four regions. Every state in the region experienced a decline in unemployment rate except Indiana, which saw its rate hold steady at 9.0 percent.
The West North Central sub-region, defined by the U.S. Labor Department as North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Nebraska, Iowa, Kansas and Missouri, held the nation’s lowest sub-regional unemployment rate, at 6.3 percent.
Here’s a state-by-state look at the November unemployment numbers for each Midwest state:
State Oct. 2011 Nov. 2011 Change
Michigan 10.6 9.8 -0.8 percent
Minnesota 6.5 5.9 -0.6 percent
Ohio 9.0 8.5 -0.5 percent
Wisconsin 7.7 7.3 -0.4 percent
Iowa 6.0 5.7 -0.3 percent
Pennsylvania 8.1 7.9 -0.2 percent
Illinois 10.1 10.0 -0.1 percent
Indiana 9.0 9.0 0 percent
Yesterday, we told you that Michigan’s unemployment rate dropped below 10 percent in November for the first time in three years. Now comes word that Illinois’ jobless rate also dropped last month, and the state added jobs in November, although not as many as it has been adding.
Illinois’ unemployment rate was 10 percent, down from 10.1 percent in October. The state, which has been adding an average of 6,000 jobs a month this year, added only 600 jobs in November.
Although Illinois officials said the state has added jobs in eight of the past 11 months, the state’s unemployment rate is actually up from 9.4 percent in November a year ago.
The national unemployment rate is 8.6 percent.
On Wednesday, Michigan officials said their state’s jobless rate was 9.8 percent last month, according to the state Department of Technology, Management and Budget. A year ago, the Michigan jobless rate was 11.4 percent.
Michigan has at times had the highest unemployment rate in the nation, peaking above 14 percent in 2009. But today, state officials said the November rate dropped below 10 percent for the first time in three years, although the decline is primarily due to fewer people seeking jobs.
The jobless rate was 9.8 percent last month, according to the state Department of Technology, Management and Budget. A year ago, the jobless rate was 11.4 percent.
Michigan’s unemployment rate compares with a national rate of 8.6 percent, but state officials say the unemployment rate in Michigan has dropped by a full percentage point since this past August.
It was the lowest rate for Michigan since October, 2008, when the rate stood at 9.4 percent. The following month, the state unemployment rate rose above 10 percent, and has been in double digits ever since. Continue reading
Three stories making news across the Midwest today:
1. Mining company lays off 600 workers. A mining company in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula will temporarily shut down part of its operations and lay off approximately 600 employees. Cliffs Natural Resources, which operates the Empire Mine in Marquette County, said production is expected to drop from 4.6 million tons in 2011 to 2.7 million tons in 2012, according to the Marquette Mining Journal. The drop comes because steel producer ArcelorMittal will take a blast furnace down for maintenance in the second quarter. A company spokesperson said the layoffs will last “several months” until the furnace goes online again.
2. Historic Cleveland property has new owner. One of Cleveland’s historic downtown landmarks was purchased today by a Canadian hotel and resort company during a foreclosure auction. Skyline International Development Inc. was the sole bidder for the Arcade, and purchased it for $7.7 million – the minimum bid, according to The Plain Dealer. The current site was renovated a decade ago for $60 million, but went into foreclosure in April 2009 when its Chicago-based owner defaulted on a $33.3 million mortgage. An attorney for the new owners said this is Skyline’s first U.S. real estate holding, but did not comment on the firm’s plans for the Arcade. With the property selling for the minimum, its creditors, including Bank of America, the city of Cleveland and Cuyahoga County, will not recoup any of their investments.
3. Chinese students Milwaukee bound. Hundreds of Chinese students could attend the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in coming years thanks to a recruiting agreement the school’s chancellor signed today in Beijing. An agreement with a Chinese education network will boost the university’s international profile and help lure Chinese companies to Milwaukee, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. It would also boost the school’s out-of-state tuition coffers. China is the city’s third-largest trading partner, according to the newspaper. The agreement runs for five years. “You could think of myriad ways these students could connect to help Milwaukee employers in China,” said Tim Sheehy, president of the Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce.