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Employment to rebound to pre-pandemic level in 2022 or 2023 in West Michigan, researcher says

The Grand Rapids metropolitan area and West Michigan is estimated to return to pre-pandemic employment levels in 2022 or 2023, based on the latest research.

The forecasts presented Tuesday morning, Feb. 23, to the Grand Rapids City Commission by the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research also show lost employment in the Grand Rapids metro area bottomed out in 2020 and is beginning to come back.

“(The forecast line) is really showing by 2022, so really in the next 15 to 24 months, a recovery for employment in the Grand Rapids area,” said Jim Robey, the institute’s director of regional economic planning services. “I think we’re seeing that now with tight labor markets.”

The forecast starts with roughly 900,000 people employed in the Grand Rapids metro area in 2019. The latest projection estimates the workforce was reduced by about 60,000 in 2020.

The Grand Rapids metro area examined in the forecast is largely a group of West Michigan counties. It includes Allegan, Barry, Ionia, Kent, Montcalm, Muskegon and Ottawa counties. The total population is about 1.43 million people.

While the forecast is dated to November, Robey said a more-recent employment prediction was released last week that shows an even stronger recovery.

Other projections presented Tuesday were formulated in March, May and August 2020 and show a much slower return to pre-pandemic employment forecasts.

Only one of them, the May forecast, shows employment remaining far below pre-pandemic forecasts over the next decade.

Robey also presented the most recent data on unemployment in the metro area. As of December 2020, unemployment stood around 4.2%, or roughly 23,000 people looking for work.

Just before the pandemic, unemployment was around 3.6% or 3.7%, Robey said. At its highest point in the pandemic, unemployment sharply spiked to around 21% in the Grand Rapids metro area, according to Robey’s chart.

“You really are probably at full employment,” he said, “and as we’ve talked with some of the staffing agencies we know that wages are going up simply due to demand and lack of supply of workers — increased demand, lack of supply.”

Data presented Tuesday also showed how Grand Rapids has exceeded the United States and Michigan in jobs recovered since the pandemic shutdown.

“Your recovery has far exceeded both Michigan and well above that of the U.S. You really are in a good position,” Robey said. “This is very similar to what we see looking back from the Great Recession, that you all were a shining point, particularly in manufacturing.”

Commissioners on Tuesday were also briefed on efforts over the past year by The Right Place economic development organization, COVID-19 business relief grants and economic recovery efforts by the city.


Posted By: mive on February 23, 2021.  For more information, please click here to read the source article.

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