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Michigan jobless rate hits 12%

State's unemployment rate rises about half a percentage point - a smaller increase than last month, but still the highest since 1984.

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By Julianne Pepitone, CNNMoney.com contributing writer

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- The unemployment rate in Michigan, suffering under the near-collapse of the auto industry, hit 12% in February, according to data released by the state on Wednesday.

Michigan had the highest unemployment rate of any state in January, the most recent month for which there is national data.

Mass layoffs, pay cuts and the credit crunch have limited Americans' ability to buy cars and other big items. In turn, the suffering auto and manufacturing industries have battered Michigan.

The state's February jobless rate jumped 0.4 percentage points from 11.6% in January - compared to a 1.4 point increase the month prior, the Michigan Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth reported.

"The February increase was not quite as sharp as those of the prior three months," said Bruce Weaver, economic analyst at the agency.

Easing of temporary layoffs in the auto industry helped moderate job losses, Weaver said.

"The auto industry generally lays people off in December for a holiday shutdown," he said. "Many of those temporary layoffs were extended through January, and some of those employees are finally being called back to work."

Slumping auto market

Meanwhile, the federal government is taking a series of extraordinary steps to boost the suffering auto sector.

The Treasury Department last week announced a $5 billion bailout to help embattled U.S. auto parts makers. The program will ensure that parts suppliers get the money owed to them for selling their products, no matter what happens to their automaker customers.

The February data marks the eighth consecutive monthly increase in the unemployment rate for the state.

The state's jobless rate has increased 4.6 percentage points from February 2008, the state said.

Rate at 15-year high

February's is the highest monthly unemployment rate in Michigan since January 1984, when it was 12.1%, Weaver said.

Its jobless rate was highest in the federal government's state-by-state tally for January. That report revealed four states - Michigan, South Carolina, Rhode Island and California - had unemployment rates above 10%.

Last week, both Rhode Island and California each reported that their unemployment rates rose to 10.5% in February.

Rhode Island is feeling the losses in manufacturing and construction jobs, while the housing downturn has battered California. South Carolina does not pre-report data ahead of the federal state-by-state report.

Earlier this month, the federal government reported that employers slashed 651,000 jobs across the nation in February, bringing the unemployment rate to 8.1% - its highest level in 25 years. To top of page

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