Central West Michigan’s unemployment rate fell to 6.5 percent for the second quarter of 2012, considerably below the June state-wide rate of 8.6 percent, as well as the July national rate of 8.3 percent. Although Ann Arbor maintains the lowest unemployment rate of the region, at 5.1 percent, Grand Rapids and Lansing both have unemployment rates below seven percent. A revitalized auto manufacturing sector has helped boost employment across the region so far in 2012, helped further by shorter-than-normal summer shutdowns for retooling. Central West Michigan furniture manufacturers are feeling steadier, but demand is expected to be flat through the remainder of 2012 as office construction remains weak nationally.
Home prices in Central West Michigan fell 2.7 percent in 2011, compared with a 4.3 percent decline nationally, according to the FHFA home price index. Thus far in 2012 home prices have declined only modestly, by about one percent, and should continue to stabilize, moving into positive territory over the course of 2013. Following a prolonged dip through the second half of 2010 and most of 2011, housing starts in the region spiked over the last several quarters, driven by a boom in single-family construction. Commercial construction activity is also picking up selectively, particularly in the vibrant Ann Arbor area.
Looking ahead, the Central West Michigan region faces economic challenges stemming from relatively weak population growth. Population growth in the area is expected to continue to lag that of the nation. Incomes in Central West Michigan are expected to grow in the range of 3.5 percent through 2013, roughly in line with national income growth.
Click here for the complete 2012Q3 Central West Michigan MSA Regional Economic Update: CentralWestMI2012Q3.