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Michigan Radio Doubles Down on 'Anemic' Job Growth Claim

Economist: NPR affiliate wrong about job growth

University of Michigan Economist Don Grimes does not agree with Michigan Radio's claim that the state’s job growth is "anemic," saying the data the NPR station cites underrepresents Michigan’s job gains.

He's speaking up after Michigan Radio Host Lester Graham did two radio shows claiming the state’s job growth was "anemic." In each broadcast, Graham cited monthly payroll survey reports that Grimes said underrepresents Michigan’s job growth by about 40,000 jobs over the course of a year.

The dispute is over two different surveys done by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics that track the economy in terms of employment. The Current Employment Statistics (CES) is done monthly and surveys about 145,000 businesses and government agencies. That survey is shortchanging Michigan when it comes to measuring job growth, Grimes said.

The Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW) produces a report based on employment and wage information for workers covered by the unemployment insurance system. While this report has wider coverage, the information is delayed. Information from the fourth quarter of 2012 was released last week, whereas the state-by-state CES report for May was released June 21.

For example, according to the CES, the state of Michigan saw 0.9 percent job growth from December 2011 to December 2012. The QCEW has Michigan with 1.9 percent national job growth, which matches the overall U.S. gain for that time span.

Grimes said that gap between reports translates to about 40,000 Michigan jobs.

"Michigan is now growing at the same rate as the U.S." Grimes said in an email. "Historically Michigan's job growth has been less than the U.S. average, except in the first couple of years of a recovery from a recession, when we rebounded faster. If Michigan can continue to grow at the same rate as the U.S. going forward, this would indicate an improvement compared to our history. 

"Of course, if someone is trying to say that the U.S. jobs growth is anemic in some absolute sense than I guess that having the same growth rate would mean that your growth is anemic too," Grimes said. "But, I think the way any state's growth should be analyzed is by comparing it relative to the U.S. today, compared with how the state has done relative to the U.S. in the past. Since our current growth compared to the U.S. is an improvement compared to our historical growth vis-a-vis the U.S., I think we are doing relatively well."

After Michigan Capitol Confidential questioned Graham as to how he came to the conclusion of "anemic" job growth in Michigan, he did a second radio show to try to prove his point and invited Detroit News Business Columnist Daniel Howes to comment on the economy.

Howes used the CES data in a Pew Charitable Trust report to agree with Graham, but he later told Michigan Capitol Confidential he had not seen the quarterly report, which has a more accurate account of job growth.

When examined over time, CES data proves useful in examining trends. For example, using CES data, James Hohman, a fiscal policy analyst at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, said that since the recession ended in June 2009, Michigan has had the sixth-highest job growth in the nation at 6.4 percent.

(Editor's note: This story has been slightly modified since its original posting.)

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See also:

Majority of Fastest-Growing U.S. Cities Are In Right-to-Work States

Michigan's Job Growth Is More Than Just Auto-Related

Michigan's Gross Domestic Product Grows In 2012

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