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Labor participation, wages ticking up in Michigan

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Michigan's labor participation rate has improved, according to Gongwer News Service.

The rate is 61.2%, compared to 60% in 2012.

Labor participation is tracked for all adults age 16 to 86, and includes those who are employed or actively seeking work.

Jim Robey is an economist with the Upjohn Institute. He says one reason for the uptick may be the lure of higher wages.

The average wage for a production worker rose by a dollar an hour between 2013 and 2016.

"We have been waiting for that wage pressure to occur," says Robey, "and it does seem to finally be happening."

While Michigan's labor force participation is improving, it's still lower than many states.

Robey says that's partly due to an older workforce.

"We tend to have a slightly older workforce in Michigan," says Robey, "and so folks in their 60s, they start to say, 'Gosh, I'm getting Social Security and other things, and it's not worth it, because the wages may not be high enough."

Another reason, according to economist Charles Ballard of Michigan State University,  is very high regional unemployment among working-age males.

He says nearly half of men age 25 to 65 in some counties in northern Michigan and the U.P., for example, are not working.


Tracy Samilton covers energy and transportation, including the auto industry and the business response to climate change for Michigan Public. She began her career at Michigan Public as an intern, where she was promptly “bitten by the radio bug,” and never recovered.