Oakland County Exceeds Economic Forecast, Projects Continued Growth

University of Michigan Economists, Donald Grimes and Dr. Gabriel Ehrlich, address the media in a press conference with Oakland County Executive, L. Brooks Patterson.

Good news dominated both reports and forecasts at last Thursday’s 32nd Economic Outlook Luncheon.

The Luncheon, held at the Marriott Hotel in Troy, featured keynote addresses from two University of Michigan Economists: Dr. Gabriel Ehrlich and Dr. Donald Grimes. Ehrlich and Grimes co-authored this year’s Economic Outlook Summary, which compiled highly-detailed data on job growth, population trends, and economic forecasts as far ahead as 2019.

According to the report, Oakland County has added an average of 15,771 jobs per year since 2009. In 2016, in-county employers added 16,475 new jobs, an overall increase of 2.3%. 2016’s growth rate surpassed the numbers for both 2014 and 2015, which saw increases of 1.9% and 2.1%, respectively.

University of Michigan Economist, Dr. Gabriel Ehrlich

This years-long increase in employment has surpassed economists’ traditional expectation of economic recovery.

“The big story is that the Oakland County economy continues to improve…job growth ticked up from 2015 to 2016, which is an impressive achievement this far into an economic recovery,” Ehrlich said.

Following a loss of approximately 59,700 jobs during the worst of the Great Recession in 2009, the county has seen six straight years of five-digit job growth. Since 2011, the county has added a total of 111,500 jobs to its already robust workforce.

Ehrlich and Grimes project that this steady job growth will continue into the near future.

“Oakland’s job growth has averaged just over 2% per year over the past three years and we see the county settling in at about that cruising altitude: averaging nearly same pace, or 2% per year, over the next three years–through 2019,” Ehrlich said.

The news was welcomed by County Executive L. Brooks Patterson.

“Any vestiges of the Great Recession are now gone in Oakland County,” Patterson said.

Indeed, all jobs lost between the spring of 2000 and the summer of 2009 will be replenished by the end of 2019. Those recovered jobs will be boosted by an additional 45,972 jobs over the next three years, bringing the recovery total to 167,145 job additions.

To Ehrlich, the types of jobs being created are just as promising as the overall amount.

“Job growth in the recovery to date has been skewed towards the higher-compensated end of the wage scale, which is also great,” Ehrlich said.

University of Michigan Economist, Donald Grimes

According to the newly-released report, the county’s biggest economic obstacle in the next three years will be its own success.

“The problems Oakland County faces today, and to some extent the state, are the problems of too good an economy,” Grimes said.

Oakland County, with a population of over 1.2 million, is one of the nation’s most affluent. It is currently tied for 10th place in prosperity nationally when compared with 38 other counties of a similar size.

The county’s unemployment rate is currently 4.2%, which is well below the national average of 4.9% and nearly a percentage point beneath the “full employment” rate. Any percentage point below 5 is considered full employment: the point at which all who are willing and able to work can find a job.

As the unemployment rate continues to decline, employers will be in greater competition for those who remain outside the workforce. Eventually, Ehrlich and Grimes say, some sectors may find that there are more jobs than there are people able to fill them.

The challenge to meet employers’ skills needs at the county level is one that Deputy County Executive Matthew Gibb aims to meet.

“We realize that it’s our duty to be exposing future career tracks to young people that don’t know which direction they’ll go,” Gibb said. “Oakland Next is taking this elite entrepreneurial panel into the schools to be able to give the very frank and straight advice on future careers that would be based in these unknown jobs.”

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In addition to the Oakland Next initiative, Oakland County’s Workforce Development team, led by Jennifer Llewelleyn, has been working to address labor challenges through several initiatives and partnership with Oakland County Michigan Works!, Oakland Community College, and Oakland Schools.

As Llewelleyn emphasized via Twitter: “Critical workforce & talent challenges in Oakland County: Labor Shortage & Aging Workforce. This is why Workforce Development is so crucial.”

Oakland County currently offers a suite of workforce development tools, including the Oakland County Apprenticeship GuideSkilled Needs Assessment on Connect Mobility, and Manufacturing Day: an annual event demonstrating the benefits of skilled trades to young adults.

The 32nd Annual Economic Outlook Luncheon was hosted by J.P. Morgan Chase, Oakland Community College, and Oakland County’s Department of Economic Development and Community Affairs. The event was sponsored by Beaumont Health, Belfor Property Restoration, Bishop International Airport, CAM – Construction Association of Michigan, DTE Energy, Huron Valley State Bank, ITC: A Fortis Company, Kelly Services, Oakland County Workforce Development, Oakland Schools, and Oakland University.

A digital copy of the 2017 Oakland County Economic Outlook Summary presented at the Luncheon is available online, HERE.

You can follow Oakland County’s Economic Development and Community Affairs on their website, www.AdvantageOakland.com, Facebook and Twitter.

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