Central West Michigan’s unemployment rate of 6.9 percent in February is well-below the February state-wide rate of 8.8 percent, as well as the March national rate of 8.1 percent. And while Ann Arbor maintains the lowest unemployment rate of the region, at 5.8 percent, Central West Michigan’s other three metro areas (Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo and Lansing) all ended February with unemployment rates of 7.5 percent or below. A revitalized auto manufacturing sector has helped boost employment across the region. GM has announced it is adding 600 new workers to its Lansing Grand River assembly plant, as it launches a second shift. Toyota is hiring 150 engineers, technicians and scientists at its Technical Center in Ann Arbor. American Axle & Manufacturing Holdings will add about 300 workers to the region through early 2013. Central West Michigan furniture manufacturers are feeling steadier but demand is expected to be flat in 2012 as office construction remains weak.
Home prices in Central West Michigan have fallen 19 percent since their 2005Q3 peak. The U.S., by comparison, has fallen about 16 percent from its much later peak in 2007Q1. Price declines in the region slowed over the course of 2011, and are poised for mild improvement in 2012, likely in the range of 2 percent year-over-year. Following a prolonged dip through the second half of 2010 and most of 2011, housing starts in the region spiked in the last quarter of 2011, driven by a boom in single-family construction.
Looking ahead, the Central West Michigan region, like most other areas of the state, faces demographic challenges, with all four metro areas in the region expected to show continued net out-migration. Personal income growth for the region is expected to lag national growth by about one percent in 2012.
Click here for the complete Central West Michigan Regional Economic Update for 2012Q2: CentralWestMI2012Q2.