Oakland County will rebound from recession, economists say

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published May 4, 2011


TROY — Twenty-nine thousand jobs will be created in Oakland County over the next three years, ending the devastating losses of the last several years, according to local economists.

And gas prices and the crisis in Japan shouldn’t derail the recovery.

George Fulton and Donald Grimes of the University of Michigan Institute for Research on Labor, Employment and the Economy laid out their forecast at the 26th annual Economic Luncheon held at the Troy Marriott April 28.

Fulton said job gains will come from manufacturing and the auto industry: 11,000 jobs are expected to be added this year, 8,000 next year and 9,700 in 2013. The gains include the reopening of General Motors’ Orion Assembly Plant this year.

Grimes said those jobs will tend to be in higher-paying industries, including wholesale trade and information technology, with an average salary of $51,000. He added that some jobs will be in the lower-salary-range temporary help sector.

This follows the loss of 60,000 jobs and 10,000 home foreclosures in 2009, and a loss of 1,200 jobs last year.

Less positive aspects of the economy are the unemployment rate (10.3 percent statewide for March) and shrinkage of the government sector, Fulton said. Jobs in the government sector in Oakland County, which includes public schools and local government administration, will take a hit of 2,000 lost jobs through 2013, with most, 70 percent, of those losses coming this year, Fulton predicted. He does expect gas prices to come down.

Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson said the housing market is seeing slow progress, and declines in property values are “slowing,” and he added that a shrinking government sector “would be a plus.”

He noted that Chrysler Headquarters and Technology Center in Auburn Hills is filled to capacity, and the health care sector in the county continues to grow.

Other highlights of the report included:

• The Detroit Three automakers’ share of the light vehicle market increased to 44.2 percent in 2010, the first increase since 1995, and that is expected to increase to just under 45 percent this year.

• Despite the rebound in auto manufacturing, the local auto industry will only employ slightly more than one-third of the workers it had in 2000.

• Unemployment in Oakland County is expected to drop to 9.8 percent his year, 9.5 percent next year and 9.2 percent in 2013.

“It does not mean the economy is back to normal,” Fulton cautioned. “For many residents, the economic struggles will continue. But we are in early steps of sustained recovery.”

The full economic outlook report is available at www.oakgov.com/peds.