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West Michigan Economic Trend: Slow But Positive

GRAND RAPIDS — The West Michigan industrial economy continues to experience slow but positive growth, according to the results of a monthly survey compiled by Brian G. Long, director of Supply Management Research in the Seidman College of Business at Grand Valley State University.

The survey results are based on data collected during the last two weeks of January. The survey’s index of business improvement, called new orders, remained positive but backtracked to +9, from +18. The production index eased to +7, down from +12. The employment index resumed a positive course and advanced to +26, up from +19.

“The biggest economic news over the past month has been the decline in the unemployment rate at both the state and national levels,” said Long. “After many months of being the state with the highest unemployment in the nation, the official unemployment rate for Michigan fell 0.5 percent to 9.3 percent, and down considerably from our high of 14.1 percent just 29 months ago.”

Long said January is usually a back-to-work month and a little stronger than December, but the office furniture business, which had turned flat, appears to have turned slightly negative. He said automotive parts suppliers are offsetting this trend, and so are the capital goods firms.

At the national level, the results are much stronger than expected. “New orders bounced up to +15 from +2. Given that this index was negative in August, September and October, the current report of +15 is very good news,” Long said.

The Institute for Supply Management survey is a monthly survey of business conditions that includes 45 purchasing managers in the greater Grand Rapids area and 25 in Kalamazoo. The respondents are from the region’s major industrial manufacturers, distributors and industrial service organizations. It is patterned after a nationwide survey conducted by the Institute for Supply Management. Each month, the respondents are asked to rate eight factors as “same,” “up” or “down.”

An expanded version of this report and details of the methodology used to compile it are available at www.gvsu.edu/scblogistics.

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