West Michigan economy continues to create jobs

Western Michigan’s economy continues to grow even as businesses begin to feel the price effects of steel and aluminum tariffs.

That’s according to a report released yesterday by Brian Long, director of supply chain management research at Grand Valley State University‘s Seidman College of Business.

In Long’s purchasing manager survey, the region’s business improvement index rose two points from the previous month to 34, while the purchasing index jumped 15 points to 37.

“Right now we are seeing the very positive numbers and right now in the spring and summer we have to say that unless there is some unforeseen event we are going to do just fine throughout. summer, ”Long said, noting that the“ rebound ”comes from the tailwind of corporate tax cuts that go into effect.

Nonetheless, anonymous respondents to Long’s survey say they feel crushed by President Trump’s tariffs on imported steel that have been announcement last month. The announcements caused price volatility, with one respondent noting an immediate 30% increase when the rates were announced.

In comments accompanying his report, Long noted that tariffs may have little direct effect on companies in western Michigan, which obtain the majority of aluminum from exempt countries like Canada and Mexico – also the source of 16% and 9%, respectively, of steel imports. Only 2% of imported steel comes from China, he added.

“The actual amount of steel and aluminum affected by the tariffs is quite small, and very few of them actually go to western Michigan. This is the good news. For the bad news, anyone familiar with the industrial market knows that suppliers are using every possible excuse to raise prices, ”Long wrote.

Meanwhile, hiring and job creation continues on an upward trend both locally and nationally, according to economic data.

Friday morning, the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) published its monthly non-farm payroll figures, which showed the US economy created 103,000 jobs in March, while unemployment remained unchanged at 4.1%.

Hourly wages have risen 2.7% since the start of the year, according to the BLS report.

While nationwide job growth continues to be positive, Friday’s BLS figures were deemed “disappointing,” according to a report of Bloomberg.

More locally, Michigan’s unemployment rate stands at 4.8% for February, according to the most recent data of the Department of Technology and Budget Management. In western Michigan, many counties are above the state average. This includes Ottawa County (3.8%), Kent County (3.9%), St. Joseph County (4.1%), Kalamazoo County (4.4%) and Ionia County (4.6%).

For economists like Long, the fact that the region continues to generate significant job growth in a tight labor market is good news.

“Between January and February, Kent County created approximately 4,700 jobs. Now that’s a lot, ”Long said. “The same is true of neighboring counties. “