Regions Job Creation Pace Drops

April 30, 2004
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GRAND RAPIDS — According to the U.S. Department of Labor, West Michigan lost 16,200 more jobs from 2001 to 2003 than were created in the region, which includes Holland, Muskegon and Grand Rapids.

That’s not exactly late-breaking news. But just looking at the sheer number of jobs reveals that almost 2.6 jobs were lost for every one that was created over that period.

New jobs totaled 10,300 during those three years, while 26,600 were eliminated.

Of course, manufacturing was the hardest hit. The sector saw 17,500 jobs disappear, while 14,300 were lost in durable goods and 3,200 were eliminated in nondurable goods.

Other sectors that lost at least 1,000 jobs were leisure and hospitality, 3,600; retail, 1,900; construction, 1,800; and financial activities, 1,200.

Job gains were recorded in six sectors from 2001 to 2003. Educational services led the way with 4,600. Health care and social assistance created 2,000, and public education added 1,800. Those three areas were responsible for eight of every 10 new jobs over those years and could continue to carry the job-creation torch for a few more years.

Kent County Fiscal Services Director Robert White, who made the employment statistics part of the county’s 2004 financial overview, said only one of the county’s largest employers added workers last year, while 16 others maintained their labor force. He remarked that nine of the county’s top 10 employers pay less tax today than they did a year ago.

But White also pointed out seven projects that should bring more jobs into the county, and only one wasn’t in medical education, general higher education, legal education or health care.

The Spectrum Health Heart Center, the new Metropolitan Hospital, Cooley Law School, the most recent GVSU downtown campus, the GVSU Health Cook-DeVos Science Center and the MSU Medical School were the six.

The seventh project on White’s list was DeVos Place. The city’s new convention center is expected to create a significant economic spin-off for the hospitality and retail sectors.

“I think we will end up with something better than is being talked about today,” said Kent County Commissioner Harold Mast.           

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