GRAND RAPIDS — The unemployment rate for the four-county Grand Rapids Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) edged down over the month to reach 7.1 percent in February. Employment increased by 3,400 and unemployment declined by 1,200, as the MSA’s civilian labor force inched upward to 607,900. The metro area’s labor market displayed seasonal employment gains in private and public education.
Unemployment rates for non-metro area counties in West Michigan were largely unchanged over the month. Mild decreases in the jobless rates for the eight non-metro area counties ranged from 0.2 to 0.7 percentage points. Barry County held the lowest rate with 5.2 percent in West Michigan during February, while the two highest rates were harbored in Lake and Mason counties with 13.1 percent and 12.4 percent, respectively.
From February 2003 to February 2004, the number of unemployed in the Grand Rapids metro area declined by over 8 percent, while the state crept down by 3 percent and the nation dropped by 5 percent. For the first two months in 2004, the number of unemployed in the metro area has been below the first two months of 2003. Alternatively, the unemployment levels in 2004 were still above the levels recorded in 2002. The Grand Rapids metro area’s seasonally unadjusted February jobless rate of 7.1 percent is lower than the Michigan rate of 7.3 percent,but exceeds the national rate of 6 percent.