Uncertainty remains, but job gains are expected in Western Michigan economy in 2021

The economic forecast for western Michigan in 2021 is not all bleak.

In October, about 43,000 fewer people were employed in the Grand Rapids area, compared to before the pandemic, according to federal statistics.

And that was before the state’s last emergency health ordinances went into effect.

Still Jim Robey of the UpJohn Institute for Jobs Research, says the economy is much better than it was in the spring. And many of the jobs lost will come back.

“We’re pretty optimistic about the long-term trends for the region, but we want to be careful about it,” says Robey.

Robey presented a regional economic analysis and forecast in December at an event hosted by The Right Place, Inc., a local economic development firm. He said there are a lot of uncertainties for the local economy by 2021. A big uncertainty is how local furniture makers will be affected by the shift to more remote work.

Still, he says he expects the region to find jobs as it recovers from the pandemic.

“So I don’t think that’s quite the jobless recovery we got out of in the Great Recession,” he said. “It’s a whole different game, and I think as we can come back we’ll see the jobs grow.”

Robey says that even if jobs return to the region, the recovery may not be complete until 2022 or 2023.