Mild Employment Growth Predicted

December 27, 2002
| By Katy Rent |
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GRAND RAPIDS — The UpJohn Institute released its latest numbers on employment trends and says that while employment will grow in the coming months, that growth is expected to be modest.

Employment in the three metropolitan areas in west Michigan fell by 0.2 percent during the third quarter. Still, the region’s unemployment rate stayed at 6.1 percent during the quarter. At the same time, the region’s economic indicators were mixed, suggesting that sluggish employment conditions may persist in the coming months.

The composite Index of Help-Wanted Advertising fell by 5.1 percent during the quarter, while its Index of Leading Indicators was flat.

However, the institute said regional components of the index were all positive. Production workers logged in longer hours, the number of dwelling units put under contract rose by 4.4 percent and the number of new claims for unemployment insurance was down by 1.3 percent.

Total employment fell by 0.2 percent during the third quarter in the Allegan, Kent, Muskegon and Ottawa MSA. The area’s unemployment rate fell slightly to 6.4 percent. The third-quarter reading of the area’s economic indicators suggests that the area’s employment conditions may not change significantly during the coming months.

The area’s Index of Help-Wanted Advertising fell by seven percent indicating that employment conditions in the area’s service-producing sector could soften in the coming months. The area’s Index of Leading Indicators rose by 0.9 percent, however, suggesting that employment conditions in the area’s goods-producing sector may improve.

Regarding the local components of the Index: production workers’ weekly hours and the number of new claims for unemployment insurance remained unchanged while the number of new dwelling units put under contract for construction rose 6.1 percent.

In Grand Rapids, total employment by both place of work and place of residence fell an estimated 0.3 percent in Kent County during the third quarter. Still, the county’s unemployment rate fell to 6.2 percent in the previous quarter. Two of the area’s four economic indicators improved in the third quarter, suggesting that the area’s sluggish employment conditions may hold in the coming months.

The area’s Index of Help-Wanted Advertising fell seven percent and the area’s Purchasing Management Index dropped in November. On the plus side, the number of new unemployment insurance claims improved, falling by 5.7 percent, and new housing starts rose by 1.6 percent.

Total employment by place of work fell an estimated 0.5 percent in Muskegon County, while the number of employed residents dropped by 0.2 percent during the third quarter. Due, in part to the decline in employment, the county’s unemployment rate rose to nine percent during the quarter.

The third-quarter reading of the county’s economic indicators suggests that the area’s employment conditions may remain sluggish in the coming months. The area’s Index of Help-Wanted Advertising fell by 7.4 percent in the quarter.

On the plus side, the number of initial claims for unemployment insurance fell by 2.8 percent, and the number of new dwelling units put under contract rose by 10.3 percent.

Total employment by place of work remained unchanged in the two-county Holland area during the third quarter, while employment of the area’s residents was down by 0.2 percent. The area’s unemployment rate stood at 5.6 percent during the third quarter.

The third quarter reading of the county’s economic indicators were mixed suggesting that lackluster employment conditions may hold in the coming months. The number of initial claims for unemployment insurance rose by 15.2 units, but the number of new dwelling units put under contract increased by a similar 15.3 percent.

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