UM economists tout Oakland County’s strong recovery

Mike Martindale
The Detroit News

Troy — University of Michigan economists said Thursday Oakland County is in its seventh year of recovery since the recession and outpacing the state and nation.

In an annual forecast of the county’s economy, George Fulton and Don Grimes from the Institute for Research on Labor, Employment and the Economy said the county has created nearly 94,500 jobs in the past five years and better than 40 percent were in high-wage industries.

The pair also predicted growth of another 44,000 jobs over the next three years.

“The economic climate just began to get better,” Fulton told reporters before the 31st annual Economic Outlook Forecast Luncheon at the Troy Marriott hotel. About 650 people attended.

“We had some red-hot growth and are now yielding to more moderate but sustainable growth. ... It couldn’t be better.”

The county’s job grown since the recession’s low point in 2009 was 15.2 percent, outpacing the nation’s 8 percent rate and Michigan’s 9.6 percent.

“This is a promising profile for Oakland County moving forward,” Fulton said, “with the growing presence of the county in the technological evolution of the motor vehicle and with the continuing focus on professional services that are integral to the new economy.”

Testing labs, engineering services and information technology related jobs are the highest areas of job growth and will continue over the next three years, the pair said.

County Executive L. Brooks Patterson touted his administration’s Emerging Sectors initiative in strengthening the county job market.

“We targeted certain areas, especially medical related fields and information technology,” Patterson said. “Today, Beaumont Health Services is the county’s largest employer when it used to be General Motors.”

Motor vehicle manufacturing, which led the economic recovery in 2011 and 2012, will account for only 2.7 percent of county jobs by 2018, according to the forecast.

Among other report highlights:

■ The county’s unemployment rate was 4.9 percent in 2015, the lowest since 2001 and better than that of the U.S.

■By 2018, the county’s work force is expected to grow from 705,591 to 749,744. The county will have restored 92 percent of jobs lost, or 12 out of every 13.

■Top job producers have been professional and business services; trade, transportation and utilities; manufacturing; and leisure and hospitality.

■High and middle-wage industries make up almost three-quarters of new jobs.

■It forecasts the average real wage in the county will have increased from $55,350 in 2013 to $61,272 in 2018.

Patterson noted there has been $3.5 billion in private investment in the county since 2009.

Dan Hunter, deputy director of economic development for the county, said more than 1,000 foreign-based firms from 39 countries are doing business in Oakland County.

Commissioner John Scott R-Waterford Township, said he liked what he heard.

“We’ve come a long way, baby, from where we stood in 2009,” said Scott, who is a candidate for Waterford Township supervisor.

“All these gains have been outstanding and hopefully some of these new businesses will come to Waterford.”

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