Positive outlook seen for west Michigan economy
2015 was a good year for west Michigan, says George Erickcek of the W.E. Upjohn Economic Institute.
The senior regional analyst highlighted national and local data at The Right Place’s annual economic outlook conference.
He says nationally, the number of job seekers are back to pre-recession levels and consumer confidence is at 100. 100 is the benchmark – not too high, not too low.
“Which is about perfect. You’re feeling good enough to buy that RV, but you’re looking at the 40-footer, not the 60-footer.”
Erickcek says that’s even better in the Grand Rapids-Wyoming metropolitan area.
“We’ve fully recovered. As a matter of fact, Grand Rapids employment has grown 9 percent from the start of the recession until now, compared to 4 percent nationwide. And that is in a place that has not given up on manufacturing.”
What is surprising, Erickcek says: employment demand is up, but wages are not. He says this particularly applies to local manufacturing – but he says with context that may not be a ‘bad’ number.
“Because much of the hiring that has occurred in Grand Rapids [is] entry-level workers. And that is taking the wage rate down. The average wage rate is declining, not because people who are skilled aren’t getting paid higher, but because there’s more and more entry level because of the [market’s] expansion.”
Overall, Erickcek says west Michigan’s core businesses are performing well, and expects this to continue.
The Right Place President and CEO Birgit Klohs agrees.
She says the economic development agency completed 16 projects this past year, adding $170 million in capital investment and 1,327 regional jobs.