News Story

Michigan has lost auto jobs since Whitmer took office

Whitmer touts addition of 25,000 auto jobs, but the net number is 1,600 jobs lost

When Ford Motor Co. announced this month it would invest $2 billion in Michigan facilities, creating 3,200 “good-paying UAW jobs,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer touted her success in growing the home state industry.

But Whitmer’s claim that Michigan has added 25,000 auto jobs since she took office lacks context. It doesn’t account for all the auto jobs lost. By that measure, Michigan is actually down 1,600 jobs, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

Comparing April 2022 to January 2019, Whitmer’s first month in office, Michigan had 167,900 jobs, down from 169,500. The data counts jobs in auto and auto parts manufacturing.

“Ford to Invest Two Billion to Create New Manufacturing Jobs in Michigan,” read the headline of a June 2 press release from the governor’s office.

Whitmer’s claim: “Michigan has added nearly 25,000 auto jobs since I took office and we continue to lead the future of mobility and electrification. Let’s continue in this spirit of collaboration to keep growing our economy, creating jobs, and advancing the future of mobility and electrification.”

The announcement was made at the Mackinac Policy Conference, with the entirety of the Michigan media and PR apparatus present. It was big news, and treated as great news.

But James Hohman, the Mackinac Center’s director of fiscal policy, sees a sleight of hand in the announcement.

“Job announcements aren’t data,” said Hohman. “A lot of jobs that make it into announcements don’t actually turn into real employment. And it’s again, only counting the positives and not the negatives. How many auto jobs are there? There’s a survey for that. There’s good data for that, and we should use that.”

And that data shows a net loss of 1,600 auto jobs.

At last year’s Mackinac conference, Whitmer announced a puzzling plan to electrify the damn roads. The very next week, Ford announced it was investing nearly $6 billion in electric vehicle facilities in Kentucky and Tennessee. Between the two states, there would be 11,000 new jobs.

In the time since, Ford has spun off its electric vehicles, its future, from its internal combustion vehicles, its past and present. After a century in Michigan, it looked like Ford’s future was elsewhere. Ford’s announcement was a welcome data point in the other direction. Provided that many jobs actually are created.

Auto jobs are important in Michigan. They pay well, and many don’t require a four-year degree. They have funded many a college education, a family trip and a lifetime memory.

New auto jobs will always be celebrated in Michigan, and especially jobs involving electric vehicles. If EVs are the future – a leap Ford has tried to make for more than a century, going back to when Henry Ford commissioned Thomas Edison to build an electric vehicle, which Edison failed to do – it is best if that future happens in Michigan.

But the top-line number, “jobs added,” or touting the numbers from job announcements, does not tell the full story. It only tells half.

Is Michigan’s auto industry growing, compared to January 2019? Depends on the month.

The numbers have taken major swings since then, down to as low as 63,300 in April 2020, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, when Whitmer issued stay-at-home orders, and as high as 178,000 in February 2020, Whitmer’s second month in office.

How many of those jobs, at any given moment, came about thanks to the sitting governor? How many of those losses should be blamed on the governor? Credit-taking and the blame game are two sides of the same flawed coin.

Whitmer’s press office did not immediately return a request for comment on where the “25,000 jobs added” figure came from.

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.