Oakland County job growth outpaces nation

By: Terry Oparka | C&G Newspapers | Published May 1, 2017

 Economist Gabriel Ehrlich, of the U-M Institute for Research, Labor, Employment and the Economy, explains that job growth in Oakland County is projected to increase about 2 percent per year through 2019.

Economist Gabriel Ehrlich, of the U-M Institute for Research, Labor, Employment and the Economy, explains that job growth in Oakland County is projected to increase about 2 percent per year through 2019.

Photo by Deb Jacques

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OAKLAND COUNTY — Oakland County has rebounded to “cruising altitude” since the 2009 recession low point, according to University of Michigan economists.

“The big story is that it continues to improve in the eighth year of recovery,” said economist Gabriel Ehrlich. He said Oakland County has outstripped the nation and the state in job growth since 2009.

A report states that from 2009 to 2016, Oakland County’s job growth of 18 percent outpaced the nation’s 9.9 percent job growth rate and the state’s 11.8 percent job growth rate.

Oakland County’s economy has reached a “comfortable cruising altitude” after the recession, Ehrlich said.

In their 32nd annual Economic Outlook — presented to a sold-out crowd at the Detroit Marriott Troy April 27 — economists Ehrlich and Don Grimes, of the University of Michigan Institute for Research, Labor, Employment and the Economy, said Oakland County will add about 15,000 jobs this year, 14,000 next year and 15,300 in 2019.

That’s a 2 percent employment increase per year, and those jobs will be at the “better-compensated end of the wage scale,” with salaries over $75,000, Ehrlich said.

From the spring of 2000 to the 2009 recession low point, Oakland County lost 163,338 jobs, most in 2008 and 2009. From the summer of 2009 through the summer of 2016, Oakland County gained 121,173 jobs.

Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson said it will take 10 years from 2009 to recapture the number of jobs lost.

“It’s been a long, hard climb,” Patterson said.

Ehrlich noted that the factory jobs lost will not be back, but white-collar jobs in engineering services and testing laboratories are expected to grow rapidly.

Grimes noted that one of the problems with a good economy is “tremendous labor shortages. It’s an extremely severe problem in Oakland County and the state of Michigan.” 

Patterson said he often hears, “If you get me 100 engineers here, I’ll move my company here.”

The largest job gains through 2019 are projected to be in professional and business services, private education and health services, and leisure and hospitality.

In the professional and business service sector, those jobs are in the scientific and technical industry groups. In the leisure and hospitality sector, these jobs are in the restaurant category, according to the report.

Grimes said Oakland County’s job growth will be highest in the middle- or higher-wage jobs. This is projected to be an increase of 6.6 percent for jobs with wages over $75,000 and 5.7 percent for middle-wage jobs in the $35,000 to $74,999 range. Those job tiers will make up over 75 percent of the new jobs created in Oakland County, according to the forecast.

“Things are pretty good here,” Grimes said.

The unemployment rate in Oakland County last year was 4.2 percent, which is projected to drop to 3.7 percent in 2018 and to 3.5 percent in 2019, Ehrlich said. The county unemployment rate peaked in 2009 at 13 percent.

Oakland County tied for 10th place on prosperity ranking with Wake County, North Carolina, according to U.S. Census statistics cited in the report.

Matthew Gibb, deputy county executive for economic development and community affairs for Oakland County, said that 70 percent of global research in the automotive field happens in Michigan.

“We think we have a whole lot to offer R and D (research and development),” Patterson said.

The Economic Outlook summary will be available in June at www.AdvantageOakland.com.

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