Annual forecast predicts more Michigan economic growth

Tribune News Service • Nov 21, 2015 at 6:00 PM

University of Michigan economists said today that the state's current streak of growth that started six years ago is forecasted to continue over the next two years, but at a substantially slower pace in the job market.

The economists predict employment gains of 61,100 jobs during 2016 and 64,800 jobs in 2017 thanks to the comeback of the housing market and sustained gains in Detroit 3 automaker sales. Still, the new annual projected figures are down from job gains of 84,600 expected this year.

Michigan's sustained recovery will help lower the state's unemployment rate from the current 5% to 4.8% at the end of next year and 4.5% at the end of 2017, they said.

"By several of the headline barometers of economic health such as growth in employment, growth in per capita income and growth in per capita GDP (Gross Domestic Product), as well as declines in the unemployment rate, the Michigan economy has been on a bit of a roll for the past five or six years," George Fulton, who is director of U-M's Research Seminar in Quantitative Economics, said in a statement. "And the state appears to be poised to continue the ride for a while longer, although perhaps not at the same pace."

In their annual forecast of Michigan's economy, Fulton and colleagues Joan Crary, Gabriel Ehrlich and Donald Grimes say the result would mean Michigan will have gained more than 586,000 jobs during the economic recovery from summer 2009 through the end of 2017.

Those totals would restore the job levels to those last seen in the spring of 2003. It will also have recouped more than two-thirds of the jobs lost since mid-2000, a decade that policymakers have described as lost for its poor economic performance.

"Things are looking pretty good. The environment has stabilized and progress has been fairly impressive," Fulton said. He is expected to present his forecast at an economic conference on the Ann Arbor campus later this morning

Ehrlich, associate director of RSQE, said in a statement that the smaller job gains still amount to solid gains, "running at 1.5 percent per year over the two-year period compared with the slightly higher 1.6 percent per year we are forecasting for the nation."

On Thursday, as part of a separate forecast, University of Michigan economists this morning delivered their most upbeat outlook for the U.S. economy in some time, including an extremely bullish forecast for sales of motor vehicles.

Sales of cars and light trucks, averaging about 17.4 million this year, should reach 18 million next year and 18.1 million the year after, the U-M economists said. If achieved, those sales levels would mark one of the most sustained robust periods in history for the auto industry.

– By Matthew Dolan, Detroit Free Press (TNS)

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