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Posted on Mon, Apr 29, 2013 : 1:19 p.m.

Ann Arbor area shows modest job growth in March and big gains from 2012

By Ben Freed


Washtenaw County's unemployment rate fell in March as the area continues replacing jobs lost since the area's previous jobs peak in 2002.

Washtenaw County economic outlook

The Ann Arbor area continued to show labor force and employment growth in March, bringing the local unemployment rate down to 5.1 percent. The rate is a modest decrease from February’s 5.3 percent, but continues the trend of significant year-over-year drops from 6.0 percent in March 2012.

The unemployment rate only takes into account those who have or are looking for jobs. Lansing and other metro areas in the state saw improved unemployment rates thanks to lower labor force numbers, but Ann Arbor’s increase in both the number of jobs and people looking for them are indicators of continued economic recovery.

An economic forecast by University of Michigan economists George Fulton and Donald Grimes predicted that Washtenaw County is quickly approaching peak job numbers from 2002 and that soon more people will be employed in the county than ever before.

March’s job gains were spread out among a number of sectors, and were primarily seasonal in nature. Even though temperatures refused to rise, spring hiring in the construction and leisure and hospitality sectors helped boost the area’s numbers. Construction jobs are expected to make major gains over the summer as the residential housing market continues to bounce back.

Despite a slight dip in March, the professional and business services sector has remained a major driver for the local economy, growing 8.9 percent over the past year and adding 2,200 jobs.

Washtenaw County retained its position once again as Michigan’s “least unemployed” county by a solid margin, with Barry and Kent Counties coming in second with 5.9 percent unemployment. Michigan’s unemployment rate dropped to 8.8 percent in March from 9.2 percent in February as the state added 22,000 jobs.

The country also posted strong job growth and the national non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell half a percent to 7.6 percent.

Ben Freed covers business for You can sign up here to receive Business Review updates every week. Reach out to Ben at 734-623-2528 or email him at Follow him on twitter @BFreedinA2


Nicholas Urfe

Tue, Apr 30, 2013 : 1:35 p.m.

Hiring data is trumpeted and celebrated with press releases. But what we don't have data on are the stealth layoffs that are done in smaller numbers to stay below the reporting requirements. They occur regularly, even as companies hire. Often those stealth layoffs happen not because of performance reasons, but simply because the quarterly numbers weren't good. Or they are done to show VC's that management is "serious!"


Tue, Apr 30, 2013 : 1:12 p.m.

t kind of payrate are these jobs giving? And what kind of education is needed to get them?


Tue, Apr 30, 2013 : 3:50 a.m.

That graph goes into the "forecast" region in mid 2012. Almost a year ago. Maybe you could update it with current data? I realize it is hard to update a photocopy... try excel.


Mon, Apr 29, 2013 : 8:09 p.m.

Jobs are good, I am glad to see the area recovering. I agree the graph is highly optimistic. But, I will take optimism after a decade of pessimism. I hope people are finding the new jobs to be good ones.


Mon, Apr 29, 2013 : 6:36 p.m.

Would love to know the specific companies that have hired people in the AA metro area. Also, the statement: "but Ann Arbor's increase in both the number of jobs and people looking for them are indicators of continued economic recovery" isn't necessarily accurate. If the number of people looking increases more than the number of jobs available, this does not indicate recovery. You need to use specific numbers in that kind of general statement before drawing conclusions.

Nicholas Urfe

Tue, Apr 30, 2013 : 1:31 p.m.

Simply do some searches on the various job sites. You'll see the countless companies that are always hiring, and have been hiring. But you gotta have skillz. And you'll also see grunt labor positions.

Lizzy Alfs

Mon, Apr 29, 2013 : 7:55 p.m.

Also, these employees haven't started yet, but all of the businesses I've interviewed that are opening at Arbor Hills are also in the process of hiring full and part time employees.

Lizzy Alfs

Mon, Apr 29, 2013 : 7:54 p.m.

@JRW: A few companies that have been hiring include Domino's Pizza (in its IT department); Barracuda Networks, which continues to hire after its expansion; and Goldstar Mortgage.

Ben Freed

Mon, Apr 29, 2013 : 6:44 p.m.

JRW. You can look through past reporting we've done to see what businesses are hiring (or letting go) large amounts of people in the metro area. As indicated by the falling unemployment rate, the number of jobs is in fact growing at a faster rate than the number of people looking. Specifically, the civilian labor force in the Ann Arbor Metro Statistical Area grew by 900 between February and March and by 1,600 from March 2012. The number of employed citizens in the same area increased by 1,200 month-over-month and 3,100 year-over-year. Hope that helps, Ben


Mon, Apr 29, 2013 : 5:49 p.m.

That graph looks awfully optimistic. Also, I wonder if the huge amount of development on high-rises will cause a job and housing bubble 3-10 years down the line.


Tue, Apr 30, 2013 : 3:48 a.m.

I doubt a handful of buildings will have much effect.