Michigan's unemployment rate improved for the second straight month, according to figures released Wednesday _ a possible sign of stabilization for the state's struggling economy.
State officials said the jobless rate dropped to 14.7 percent in November from a national high of 15.1 percent in October. It had reached 15.3 percent in September, the highest rate since early 1983.
Michigan's jobless rate likely will remain the worst in the nation when all states have reported their November statistics this week. But it seems to have steadied, after surging from 8.1 percent in June 2008 to more than 15 percent a year later.
"An improvement as small as what we've seen _ it's almost small enough that it's hard statistically to say there's much going on," said Charles Ballard, an economist with Michigan State University. "But at least it's stabilized."
Michigan's jobless rate now is at its lowest point since May. But there are signs of weakness in the state's latest economic report.
The state lost about 14,000 nonfarm payroll jobs last month, according to a seasonally adjusted survey of employers. About 6,000 jobs were lost in retail, 5,000 jobs were lost in manufacturing and 4,000 were lost in government.
Companies reported adding about 8,000 professional and business service jobs, but those gains were not enough to offset losses in other industries.
Michigan has lost about 240,000 non-farm payroll jobs this year. The number of payroll jobs has dropped in nine of the first 11 months of 2009.
Some economists predict the state's economy will not begin to show much improvement until 2011. The University of Michigan forecasts that unemployment could average 15.8 percent in 2010 while the state loses nearly 85,000 more jobs.
The national unemployment rate in November was 10 percent, down slightly from 10.2 percent in October. Michigan's jobless rate has exceeded 10 percent all year. In November 2008, it was 9.6 percent.
Michigan has had the nation's highest jobless rate for much of the past four years.