Unemployment Rate Met with Cautious Optimism

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Michigan's seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate for March was 7.5 percent -- the lowest it's been since hitting 7.3 percent in April 2008, according to the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget.

Still, 355,000 Michiganders are unable to find work. At Capital Area Michigan Works, which provides resources to job seekers, between 1,000 to 1,500 locals stream through the doors every day to utilize its services.

"We are still bombarded every day," said Edythe Hatter-Williams, CEO of Capital Area Michigan Works. "I think even if they are again working, they're going to be looking for better opportunities and then those that may even be working but they're not making enough, so they need to pick up a second or maybe even a third job."

The economy may be healing, but its pace is still slow in some minds. Mason resident Samuel Janecke has been surviving on side jobs here and there, just trying to get by before he ends up back at Michigan Works.

"It's still hard," he said. "There's still a lot of people looking for work and not enough jobs to go around. "I think things are getting better slowly but surely, but I think there's a long way to go."

That seemed to be the consensus on Washington Ave. Thursday afternoon, as lunch-goers cautiously praised economic progress.

"Definitely the economy is better than it's been in six years, but I think the unemployment rate doesn't include people who have stopped looking for jobs," said Denise Hawkins. "A lot of people have exceeded their weeks, so they're not on the unemployment figure anymore."

Michelle Taylor agreed saying she only thinks the economy has improved "just a little bit, but not very much."

"I know people that are unemployed and hard to find a good paying job," she said. "I think the numbers have changed because a lot of people have dropped off the rolls."

Lansing Chamber of Commerce President Tim Daman said he's seeing signs of good economic news. He cites job additions and expansions at Jackson National Life in East Lansing, Two Men and a Truck in Lansing and Cravings Gourmet Popcorn in old town Lansing.

"I definitely think our area's on the rebound," said Chad Jordan, owner of Cravings Gourmet Popcorn. "People are out buying, businesses are out buying, trying to do things for their employees and attract new business, so I really believe that these unemployment numbers are really a good, positive sign for our area."

Jordan is getting ready to open a second store in Okemos June 1, for which he plans to hire 5-10 additional employees.

The economy isn't completely healed, but the worst may be over, Jordan said. And if businesses have made it through the recession, they're in a prime position to thrive in better times.

"I think that most business owners are pretty optimistic about what's going on," he said. "I think that there's a lot of room for growth though. I wouldn't say let's go out and throw a party. There's so much work that we have to get done."

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