News Bite

Bloomberg Claims Michigan No. 1 In ‘Economic Health Improvement,’ So Why Are We No. 40 On Jobs?

Seemingly arbitrary collection of unrelated and problematic statistics tells an implausible story

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer presides over the nation’s top economy when it comes to recovering from the pandemic, according to an opinion piece written by a co-founder of the left-leaning Bloomberg News. It received wide coverage, including in The Washington Post.

Matthew Winkler, who retired as Bloomberg’s chief economics editor, based his claim on the company’s “Economic Health Improvement” index. The rankings included just the 37 states with a population greater than 2 million.

According to the article, “Michigan is No. 1 based on equally weighted measures of employment, personal income, home prices, mortgage delinquency, state tax revenue and the stock market performance of its publicly-traded companies.”

But how did Michigan become the top state in economic recovery when it ranks 40th in the nation for the pace of its jobs recovery? As of December 2021, employment in the state was 4.25 million — down 4.6% from 4.45 million, where it was in February 2020 before the pandemic.

One explanation for Michigan’s unexpected place at the top of the index may be the author's choice to weight its components equally. For example, Michigan gets equivalent credit for having fewer mortgage delinquencies during the pandemic. But one could ask whether that is as important to a state’s economic health as the number of people with a job.

Moreover, the number of mortgage foreclosures here may be skewed by something not in the index: a surge of fraudulent payments from Michigan’s unemployment insurance system. The state paid out $8.5 billion in improper benefits to state residents from March 2020 through September 2021.

It can be argued that those payments - not real economic gains - temporarily reduced foreclosures or boosted home prices or other elements in the index.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.