Leisure and hospitality jobs have recovered to where they were prior to Michigan’s second dine-in ban, which was in effect from Nov. 18 through Jan. 31.
The state added nearly 56,000 leisure and hospitality jobs between January and February, according to data released this week by the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget. The industry lost nearly 63,000 jobs in December, but recovered 9,000 of them in January.
Almost all of February’s rebound came from the “accommodation and food services” sector, as 50,000 of those workers were recalled to work after restaurant dining rooms could reopen inside.
There were an estimated 341,700 people employed in the leisure and hospitality industry in February, one of the highest marks since the pandemic began. Yet, the sector hasn’t rebounded to pre-pandemic job levels – when there were 435,500 people employed in February 2020.
Fewer jobs, yet lower unemployment?
February’s employment data is easily twistable.
For the optimists, Michigan’s unemployment rate is 5.2%, the lowest since the pandemic began and a decrease of 0.5 percentage points from January. The number of unemployed people decreased by nearly 30,000 to 243,000. Also, payroll jobs jumped 63,000 in February to the highest level since March 2020.
For the pessimists, the number of people employed dipped 14,000 in February to its lowest mark since September.
How can all of those numbers coexist in the same report?
The top reason – people are leaving the labor force. The unemployment rate takes the number of unemployed people and divides that by how many people are in the labor force – meaning they have a job or are actively looking for one.
Many people have given up looking for work for various reasons, so Michigan’s labor force declined by 42,000 to about 4.7 million in February. That’s Michigan’s smallest labor force since November 2012.
That’s why February boasted lower unemployment numbers, even though fewer people were employed.
Second – how can payroll jobs be up, but employment be down? That’s because the data comes from two separate surveys, said Bruce Weaver of the DTMB.
Payroll jobs comes from a survey of employers. Employment numbers come from a survey of employees. So the employer survey showed there’s 1.6% more jobs filled last month, while the employee survey indicates a 0.3% decrease in jobs.
“These two employment measures often show similar monthly trends,” Weaver said. “But as a result of the different concepts and data sources, in some months the estimates may not move together.”
The employer survey also allows for a breakdown in which industries are gaining and losing jobs. The only sector to lose a significant amount of jobs in February was construction, which lost about 3,000 jobs, mostly because of poor weather, per state officials.
One more caveat – even though the data estimates Michigan has 243,000 unemployed workers, there have been between 600,000 and 1 million Michiganders receiving unemployment pay in recent weeks.
The discrepancy there is largely because not all people on unemployment need to be searching for work – per some pandemic unemployment rule tweaks – so they’re technically considered out of the labor force.
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