University of Michigan economists Donald Grimes, left, and Gabriel Ehrlich, and Oakland County Deputy Executive Timothy Meyer speak to reporters at a press conference preceding the Oakland County Economic Outlook at the Detroit Marriott Troy April 26.

University of Michigan economists Donald Grimes, left, and Gabriel Ehrlich, and Oakland County Deputy Executive Timothy Meyer speak to reporters at a press conference preceding the Oakland County Economic Outlook at the Detroit Marriott Troy April 26.

Photo by Donna Agusti


U-M economists: Oakland County job growth will continue

By: Terry Oparka | C&G Newspapers | Published May 1, 2019

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TROY — Extending a nine-year trend, job growth in Oakland County will continue on the upswing for the next three years, adding about 31,600 jobs from 2019 to 2021, according to University of Michigan economists.

At the 34th annual county economic outlook — presented to a sold-out crowd at the Detroit Marriott Troy April 26 — economists Gabriel Ehrlich and Donald Grimes, of the University of Michigan’s Research Seminar in Quantitative Economics, said this job growth will average 1.4% each year — a faster pace than anticipated for the U.S. and the state.

These jobs will be in the middle- and high-wage categories, with health care, professional and technology services, and knowledge-based industries leading the way, Ehrlich said. “It’s a very healthy sign. We’re excited about the news this year.”

Wages in the middle-wage category — which span $35,000-$74,999 — are forecasted to increase by 4.1%, and wages in the high-wage category — over $75,000 — are forecasted to increase by 4.4% over the next three years.

Deputy County Executive Timothy Meyer gave the introduction at a press conference preceding the event.

Meyer touted long-term leadership, Oakland County Economic Development and Community Affairs staff, and the county’s Emerging Sectors initiative for the positive forecast. “It happens by leadership,” Meyer said.

Ehrlich noted that the unemployment rate in Oakland County is projected to drop to 2.7% this year, and to 2.6% in 2020 and 2021, down from the 3.3% unemployment rate in Oakland County last year. This is below the U.S. projection of 3.9%.

Oakland County, which is home to 1.25 million people, placed sixth, up from ninth last year, on a prosperity ranking that used U.S. census statistics. Rankings for Wayne and Macomb counties were not available at press time.

Grimes noted that in 2009, General Motors and Chrysler Corp. announced that they were filing for bankruptcy.

Oakland County lost 166,500 jobs from 2000 to 2009.

“You’ve got to remember where we were,” Grimes said. “If you asked me if we’d be back to the prior peak, I wouldn’t believe it.”

Ehrlich said that while U.S. economic growth is projected to slow down, “We don’t forecast a recession. We see steady but slow growth.”

He described the upward trend for the last nine years as “not a fast, but long expansion.”

Ehrlich said factors that could derail job growth could be external shocks, such as fluctuations in oil prices, fiscal mistakes and the trade policy.

The 1.8% local inflation rate forecasted is below the Federal Reserve’s target of 2%, Ehrlich said. “We’re confident that trade tensions won’t escalate out of control.” He added that the projected growth in Oakland County will spill over to the rest of the region.

Glenn Lapin, an economic development specialist for Troy, said the prediction that health care, professional and tech services, and knowledge-based industries will lead the way to job growth is consistent with what he’s seeing in Troy.

He noted that Health Alliance Plan moved 1,100 employees into offices on Maple Road, near Rochester Road, formerly occupied by United Shore Mortgage, which moved to Pontiac.

Lapin said Molina Healthcare recently moved into offices at Long Lake and Crooks roads. “Professional and tech services are bread and butter in Troy,” Lapin said. “It’s very consistent.”

Lapin said the office vacancy rate in Troy is 13%, and the industrial vacancy rate is 1.6%.

He described the economic forecast as optimistic.

“The key issue is how to find workers for jobs when the unemployment rate is so low,” he added.

Click here for the full report.

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