UM economists see more job growth in Oakland County

Mike Martindale, The Detroit News

Troy — Oakland County released its annual economic outlook report Thursday and the news for coming years continues to be bright.

L. Brooks Patterson (right), Oakland County Executive, listens to Gabriel Ehrlich, director of the UM Research Seminar, during a press conference moments before the 32nd Annual Oakland County Economic Outlook luncheon held at the Detroit Marriott in Troy on Thursday April 27, 2017.

The report, compiled by Gabriel Ehrlich, director of the University of Michigan Research Seminar in Quantitative Economics and Donald Grimes, of the UM Institute for Research on Labor, Employment and the Economy, predicts the county will add 15,000 jobs this year, 14,000 jobs next year and 15,300 in 2019.

The two economists talked to reporters prior to their full presentation at a luncheon.

“Oakland County’s economy appears to have reached a comfortable cruising altitude after a turbulent start to the millennium,” Ehrlich said. “If our forecast proves to be correct, the current recovery will extend to at least 10 years.”

Grimes agreed.

Don Grimes, UM Institute for Research on Labor, speaks during a press conference moments before the 32nd Annual Oakland County Economic Outlook luncheon held at the Detroit Marriott in Troy on Thursday April 27, 2017.

“Things are progressing very well in Oakland County,” he said. “... Oakland County is well-positioned to thrive in the future with an educated populace, a high share of managerial and professional jobs and an attractive standard of living.”

The report found the county, which had 2.4 percent annual job growth from 2009 to 2016, outpaced both the nation’s and the state’s employment gains during the same period.

“The study bears out that the county will continue to be the place to live and work in Michigan,” said Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson.

Patterson noted that the report found Oakland County and its 1.2 million residents tied for 10th place on a prosperity ranking compared with 38 other counties of similar size across the nation.

Oakland County ranks 7th in median income; 8th in its share of residents employed in professional and managerial occupations and 11th with the number of residents who have associate’s degrees or higher.

Six hundred people attended the sold-out luncheon and presentation of the 32nd annual UM forecast of Oakland County’s economic prospects at the Troy Marriott Hotel. The presentation was sponsored by 12 regional organizations and hosted by the county’s Department of Economic Development of Community Affairs, Chase and Oakland Community College.

Attendees were to hear how county technology initiatives and programs like Medical Main Street, along with the Oakland University William Beaumont Hospital School of Medicine, were expected to figure prominently in future health services. Among findings from the report:

— Job growth for the next three years is expected to average 2 percent per year or an increase of 44,000 jobs from 2016 to 2019.

— The county’s unemployment of 4.2 percent last year was below the nation’s average of 4.9 percent.

— The largest job gains forecast through 2019 are in professional and business services, private education and health services, and leisure and hospitality.

— Employment in higher-wage industries (annual pay of $75,000 or more) will increase by 6.6 percent over the next three years.

— Manufacturing, which added 2,232 jobs last year, is expected to have slower growth over the next three years.

It is forecast by the end of 2019, Oakland County will have regained all 163,338 jobs lost from the spring of 2000 to the summer of 2009.

In 2016, Oakland County's workforce was 722,645 and its labor force is expected to grow to 766,976 by 2019.

If anything, the county’s success also can be a problem, Patterson acknowledged.

“I have talked to some businesses that said if I could get 100 engineers, I would move to Oakland County tomorrow,” said Patterson. “Those trained professionals are not available ... but we are working to correct that.”

Deputy County Executive Matthew Gibb said the county is involved in the fourth phase of a skills/needs assessment project identifying what jobs are in demand and will be in the future.

The county’s demographics also are changing along with the nation as a whole, which has an aging population. The county's population of those aged 65 years or older is expected is expected to increase from 15.5 percent in 2015 to 24.4 percent in 2045 — almost one of every four county residents.

Patterson noted that today in Florida, known for its large number of retirees, people 65 or older account for 19.4 percent of that state’s population.

The concern is that an aging population may create labor shortages in future years, especially in a knowledge and information-based economy, according to the study.

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