The job market in the Niles-Benton Harbor area received a shot in the arm over the past couple of months.
The total number of nonfarm payroll jobs in the metropolitan statistical area inched up by 200 in February and has increased by 2,000, or 3.5 percent, since Jan. 1, according to statistics recently released by the Michigan Department of Energy, Labor & Economic Growth.
The growth was led in part by seasonal workers being called back, said Leonidas Murembya, a labor market analyst for southwest Michigan.
The area, which currently employs 58,900 nonfarm workers, gained 300 jobs in private and public education — which accounted for much of the seasonal employment — and 100 jobs in professional and business services.
The only area that lagged in February was the construction and retail trade sector, which each lost 100 jobs.
For the year, the job gain was led by a large spike in professional and business services (more than 1,500), and manufacturing, which added 400 positions in the first two months. Construction, financial activities and private education and health care services each edged up by 100 jobs over the year.
Murembya said while the numbers show improvement, the area still has an unemployment rate about 3 percent higher than before the recession hit in 2007.
"We’re seeing a little bit of improvement, but were not quite there," he said.
Unemployment in Berrien County dipped from 11.7 percent in January to 11.1 percent at the end of February.
In February, support staff in the education sector (private and public) continued to be recalled to work, following seasonal layoffs, while jobs were added in seven of the 12 areas.
Numbers in Cass County also improved. About 125 payroll jobs were added in February and 200 for the year.
The overall unemployment rate in Michigan at the end of February dropped to 11 percent. The national rate is 9.5 percent.
Staff writer Tom Moor: