By Tony Wittkowski | Business Reporter | The Herald-Palladium
Unemployment in Southwest Michigan remained flat in March, but the month produced a noticeable decline from last year.
According to a report from the Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives, hiring activity was recorded in leisure and hospitality, professional and business services, and construction throughout Southwest Michigan.
However, those gains were offset by a few sectors that exhibited job cuts. Those sectors included manufacturing, trade, transportation, utilities and government. Unemployment rates were mostly flat, with some inching up or down no more than three tenths of a percentage point.
Allegan County’s unemployment rate dropped from 4.1 percent to 4 percent. Cass County’s rate stayed at 4.7 percent from February to March.
Berrien County lowered its jobless rate from 5 percent to 4.8 percent. At this time last year, Berrien County had a 5.6 unemployment rate.
Van Buren County upheld the highest jobless rate in the region, but had the largest decrease in the region, moving from 6.4 percent to 6.1 percent. That decrease in unemployment brought Van Buren’s rate a full percentage point below the 7.3 percent recorded in March 2015.
Van Buren was the only Southwest Michigan county that recorded a higher unemployment rate in March than the state’s unadjusted rate of 5.1 percent.
The unadjusted nationwide jobless rate matched the state’s rate, with 5.1 percent.
Payroll jobs in Berrien County rose by 500 in March to a total of about 61,100, mostly due to a job gain of 400 in leisure and hospitality.
A 100-job gain was found in construction and government. However, the super-sector of trade, transportation, warehousing and utilities cut 100 positions over March.
Employment in the remaining sectors were unchanged.
Total nonfarm employment in the Niles-Benton Harbor MSA was 1,100, or 1.8 percent, above March 2015 levels.