Economic Development and Human Resources

Kent County leads U.S. employment recovery

Report indicates Kent is first of nation's 'large economies' to fully recover.

January 16, 2015
| By Pete Daly |
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According to a study by the National Association of Counties, Kent County is the first “large economy” county in America — counties with more than 500,000 residents — to reach its pre-downturn unemployment rate.

The 2014 County Economic Tracker: Progress through Adversity released by NACo on Jan. 14 states that Kent County’s unemployment rate right now is 3.5 percent — the lowest it has been in a decade.

The report tracks annual changes in four key economic performance indicators — economic output (GDP), employment, unemployment and home prices — across the nation’s 3,069 counties. The performance calculations done by NACo are based on data purchased from Moody’s Analytics. The wage analysis uses average annual pay data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, inflation data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, and cost of living adjustments based on regional price parities from the BEA or median gross rent from the U.S. Census Bureau.

This second annual report also explores 2012-2013 wage dynamics, accounting for local cost of living and inflation.

According to NACo, it demonstrates that county economies are where Americans feel the national economy, particularly in their jobs and paychecks.

According to another news release issued by Kent County government, the county is “excelling in employment statistics,” and growth in the private sector and public-private collaborations are fueling recovery here at a faster pace than most other communities.

“This is great news, considering that 95 percent of county economies have not returned to their pre-recession unemployment rates,” said Dan Koorndyk, chair of the Kent County Board of Commissioners. “We need to remain focused on policies that will encourage new business growth in all sectors.”

“We are pleased that Kent County’s economy is rebounding and continues to show improvement,” said Kent County Administrator/Controller Daryl Delabbio. “We attribute this, in part, to our superb public-private-nonprofit partnerships and the collaborative environment that exists, along with the innovative spirit that our community has historically demonstrated. Having the expertise of programs like The Right Place and the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce is invaluable to our residents.”

According to Kent County officials, efforts by The Right Place economic development agency in Kent County have resulted in the following:

  • 2012 jobs retained: 55 (45 were locally-based MedDirect, after acquisition by MedData in Ohio)
  • New jobs created: 1,145
  • 2013 jobs retained: 997 (vast majority were a result of the SpartanNash project)
  • New jobs created: 1,586
  • 2014 jobs retained: 45
  • New jobs created: 2,138

According to NACo, almost three-quarters of county economies recovered to pre-recession levels on at least one of the indicators. Most of the fully-recovered county economies are small, in counties with fewer than 50,000 people. The report also found the median housing price for a single family home has recovered close to 2005 prices, the peak year for Kent County.

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