More than 100 local business, government and education leaders attended the annual economic forecast event at the Grand Haven Community Center.
George Erickcek, senior regional analyst with the Kalamazoo-based W.E. UpJohn Institute for Employment Research, said Ottawa County broke out of its shell in 2012 and produced eye-popping results — better than state and national numbers.
Here's a sampling:
— There were 6,500 more jobs for residents living in Ottawa and Muskegon counties; 3,100 of them were for folks who were unemployed in 2011.
— Total employment in the region grew 4.8 percent.
— Employment in the goods production sector climbed a whopping 8 percent.
— During the recession, there were seven job seekers for every open position. That number dropped to three last year.
"We are over the hump for sure," Erickcek said of the economic recovery from the Great Recession.
Although the future is bright, Erickcek cautioned the 2012 numbers are rare. He attributes much of the growth to the surging auto market. Nationally, new auto sales eclipsed their best clip in four decades.
West Michigan is flush in automobile parts manufacturers and those companies have followed the growth trend, according to the economist.
“You're seeing some really strong numbers for last year,” Erickcek said of the regional data. “I don't think we can repeat those numbers. No way can we repeat that kind of growth.”
Erickcek projects a 2.3 percent increase in regional employment in 2013 and a 2 percent rise in 2014. He expects durable goods manufacturers to once again lead the charge with a 3.1 percent increase in hires this year and a 1.9 percent uptick in 2014.
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