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      Summer season helps reduce unemployment

      As the federal government is set to release the August jobs report Friday, much of the U.P. remains above the national unemployment average.

      T he hot summer did help reduce the unemployment rate in certain U.P. tourist areas. Places like Mackinac Island helped reduce the unemployment rate in Mackinac County to 4.2 percent in July.

      K eweenaw County benefited this summer as well, with its unemployment rate falling to 8.4 percent, a 1.7 percent reduction from last year.

      Dennis West, P resident of the economic development group, Northern Initiatives, crunched the numbers and sees improvement.

      "The numbers did blip up over June, but I think what you really see is a lot more health than what you would have seen a year ago, based upon tourism looking a lot stronger and affecting both eastern and western U.P. and manufacturing affecting the center," explained West.

      T he three primary industries in Marquette County, mining, health care, and higher education, help stabilize employment opportunities. But the county did see a slight bump in unemployment from last year to 9.3 percent. Economists attribute some of this to delayed construction projects and overall cuts in government.

      "One out of every five jobs in the Upper Peninsula is tied to a government position, and it's no secret the government is starting to cut back," said Tawni Ferrarini, an economics professor at Northern Michigan University.

      O ne of the biggest challenges employers face is finding skilled workers.

      "People that don't have any experience or unskilled workers are having a hard time finding a job," Ferrarini said. "This is part of today's economy--people need skills, they need to stay on top of those skills, and you have to engage in lifelong learning."

      A ccording to U.S. Labor statistics from last September, a third of the U.P. counties were among the 50 highest unemployed rural counties in the country.

      B ut West says the tide is turning. "There are a lot more positives, certainly in the Upper Peninsula, than even a year ago, and the trends look to be improving," West said.ã??