Study Reveals New Job Sources

December 17, 2007
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GRAND RAPIDS — According to the state, businesses in the five-county West Michigan region added 8,100 private payroll jobs last year. In contrast, the rest of the state lost private-sector jobs in 2006.

But at the same time, the job study conducted by the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Growth reported the average weekly wage in Kent, Allegan, Ottawa, Oceana and Muskegon counties was lower last year than it was statewide and nationally.

The average weekly wage in West Michigan was $687 in 2006, or $89 less than the state average and $87 less than the national average. Over the course of a 52-week year, regional workers earned an average of $4,600 less than their state and national counterparts last year. DLEG said the region’s pay was lagging because West Michigan offers many lower-wage manufacturing jobs and there are few unionized jobs in the region.

Three market segments were responsible for half of the jobs in West Michigan last year. Manufacturing accounted for 25 percent of the region’s jobs in the second half of 2006, followed by retail and the health care and social assistance sector with 12 percent each.

Professional and technical services produced only 3.5 percent of the jobs in the region last year, while educational services provided just 2.4 percent. Professional and technical services accounted for 6.7 percent of the jobs statewide, nearly double the region’s figure. But educational services was just 1.4 percent statewide, almost half of the region’s figure.

The DLEG report predicts that job growth will be higher in West Michigan through 2014 than throughout the rest of the state. The region’s rate of job growth has been projected to be 11.4 percent, compared to 7.9 percent for the state. Over time, some of that growth is expected to come from business and professional services, educational and health services, and the leisure industry.

Still, the West Michigan rate is expected to trail the national pace of job growth over those years, as the nationwide figure is expected to reach 14.1 percent by 2014.

In its report, called Creating the 21st Century Workforce: Developing Coordinated Regional Strategies, DLEG profiles four industry groups for the region: core, growth, developing and declining. Each profile is based on job changes from 2004 to 2006.

  • The core group is defined as industries that had a higher share of jobs in the region than found nationally. That group for West Michigan is all manufacturing.

It consists of furniture and related product manufacturing, primary metal manufacturing, transportation equipment manufacturing, machinery manufacturing, plastics and rubber products manufacturing, fabricated metal product manufacturing, crop production, chemical manufacturing, nonmetallic mineral product manufacturing and paper manufacturing.

  • As its name suggests, the declining group is made up of the regional industries that lost the most jobs over those years. As expected, half are also listed in the core group.

It consists of nonmetallic mineral product manufacturing, heavy and civil engineering construction, paper manufacturing, food and beverage stores, furniture and home furnishings stores, rental and leasing services, electronic and appliance stores, transportation equipment manufacturing, machinery manufacturing and crop production.

  • The growth group is made up of industries in the region that had a faster than average employment growth.

It consists of computer and electronic product manufacturing, membership associations and organizations, social assistance, nursing and residential care facilities, accommodation, insurance carriers, administrative and support services, hospitals, truck transportation and fabricated metal product manufacturing.

  • The developing group contains regional industries whose share of jobs rose at a pace faster than the national average. A few are also found in the growth group.

It consists of computer and electronic product manufacturing, membership associations and organizations, chemical manufacturing, plastics and rubber manufacturing, nursing and residential care facilities, non-store retailers, gasoline stations, food manufacturing, telecommunications, and insurance carriers and related activities.

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