News Story

Right-To-Work For More? Michigan Income Growth the Nation’s Third-Fastest

State’s unemployment rate hits 15 year low

Incomes in Michigan grew faster than all but two other states during the first three months of 2016 according to a new report from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Per capita personal income in Michigan increased 1.3 percent from the fourth quarter of 2015 to the first quarter of 2016, trailing only the states of Washington (1.5 percent) and Maine (1.4 percent).

“More confirmation that Michigan's economy is doing very well,” said Don Grimes, a University of Michigan economist, in an email.

Nationwide, state incomes grew 1.0 percent on average during the period, ranging from a loss of 1.3 percent to Washington’s 1.5 percent gain. Personal income grew in every state except Wyoming and North Dakota.

Higher incomes are good news for individuals and the state economy. But they are a challenge for unions struggling to sustain the narrative, which they promoted before and since Michigan enacted its right-to-work law in 2012, that the measure leads to lower worker pay and family incomes. Unions coined the phrase “right-to-work-for-less” to advance their argument.

The strong growth in personal income matches the good news from Michigan’s job market, said James Hohman, the assistant director of fiscal policy at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

Some 98,000 people entered the state job market from December 2015 to May 2016, while employment rose by 115,000 jobs. That is a recipe for falling unemployment. Michigan’s May unemployment rate of 4.7 percent was the lowest since March 2001.

“Michigan’s economy has started off 2016 at a brisk pace,” Hohman said.