DETROIT (WWJ) — Comerica Bank’s Michigan Economic Activity Index increased in March, up 1.8 points to a level of 119.9.

The March index reading is 49 points, or 68 percent, above the index cyclical low of 71.2, reached at the bottom of the last recession.

The index averaged 114 for all of 2012, 11 points above the index average for 2011.

On top of the March increase, February’s index reading was revised upward slightly, from 117.8 to 118.1.

“Our Michigan Index has gradually increased through the first three months of 2013, consistent with an improving national and regional economic climate,”  said Robert Dye, chief economist at Comerica Bank. “The index components for March were mixed, with payrolls, state sales tax and motor vehicle production stronger. Exports, hotel occupancy, unemployment insurance claims and residential building permits were weaker. It is good news for Michigan to see auto assemblies increasing again, after flattening out at the start of the year. I expect to see auto sales moderately increase through the year, bolstered by improving conditions for residential real estate.”

The Michigan Economic Activity Index consists of seven variables — nonfarm payrolls, exports, sales tax revenues, hotel occupancy rates, continuing claims for unemployment insurance, building permits, and motor vehicle production. All data are seasonally adjusted, as necessary, and indexed to a base year of 2008, the economic activity of which is equal to 100 on the index. Nominal values have been converted to constant dollar values. Index levels are expressed in terms of three-month moving averages.

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