Reasons to be Optimistic Abound in Michigan Economy

State leads the way out of recession, but work still to do

There is a vast turnover in jobs in Michigan’s economy — more than one out of 20 are added and lost every three months. This means that there’s always someone being left behind during an economic recovery and there’s always someone finding new opportunities in a recession. Yet, the overall direction of the economy still matters and things are going well in Michigan.

In a recent article in Bridge, Ted Roelofs points out that, even though Michigan’s unemployment rate has fallen to a 15-year low, the state still has a relatively high “underemployment” rate and interviews a few people who are employed part-time but would like to find full-time jobs.

However, the share of workers who are part-time for economic reasons has fallen (dropping by 22.6 percent since 2010).

There are other ways of looking at whether people are having an easier or harder time finding work. The Bureau of Labor Statistics tracks six of them. Regardless of which of these you measure, Michigan’s rates are moving in the right direction and doing so at rates that often lead the entire nation. For instance, from 2009 to 2015, Michigan led the nation in its drop in U-1, U-2, U-3, U-4 and U-5 unemployment and is third among the states in dropping its U-6 unemployment.

This is not to say that some people are not struggling — these numbers are never likely to drop to zero — but they are improving and that matters. Michigan has more opportunities for employment for people that are seeking them.

Moreover, there’s other good news going on in Michigan. While there have been complaints about people dropping out of the labor force, this has turned around in recent months. The previous two months of data show a stark and, if continued, record-setting levels of people returning to the labor force in Michigan and finding employment.

What’s somewhat unique about Michigan’s economic recovery is that it’s exclusively driven by full-time employment growth. The number of part-time jobs has actually declined in this economic recovery. That is not necessarily a good thing — a growing economy should have more opportunities for part-time employment as well. But nearly all signs point to a strong economic recovery and continued growth in Michigan and these opportunities should rebound.

Michigan went through a terrible decade in the 2000s. It is also on a robust economic recovery. It may take a while before the state returns to 2000 peaks (though some areas already have). Yet the recovery has meant more people are part the workforce and finding full-time employment in Michigan.