Steady job growth for Grand Rapids in 2018


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Grand Rapids’ job market is expected to continue to grow steadily in 2018, though not as dramatically as last year.

According to the W.E. Upjohn Institute, a West Michigan think tank for employment research, Grand Rapids added 13,000 more jobs in 2017, an increase of 2.5 percent. That was surprising for Jim Robey, the director of regional economic planning services of the Upjohn Institute. He said it wasn’t expected due to the tight employment market.

The institute’s economic forecast for 2018 calls for slower employment growth at .74 percent as the region will continue to be home to a competitive market and expanding businesses.

The growth in the number of local manufacturing jobs stands out nationally. Robey says that this year we’ll continue to see a steady and slow rise in services and government employment numbers, as well.

“The recession isn’t looming, good times continue to roll along and we have great positive feelings about the economy,” Robey said. “It continues to be a surprise that they grew at almost 4 percent across the entire economy last year.”

Robey says Grand Rapids was already in a more comfortable spot that the nation as a whole, with 3.6 percent unemployment in 2016 compared to the national average of 4.9 percent. He also noted that the number of people 16 and over employed in Grand Rapids is much higher than the national average.

“There is a Midwest ethic of people getting up and going to work and expecting to go to work and that plays out in both the labor force numbers as well as the unemployment numbers,” Robey said.

So how will Michigan’s new minimum wage impact all of this? Starting Monday, it increased by 35 cents from $8.90 to $9.25 per hour.

Robey says that’s in line with inflation.

“You’re not really earning more in real buying power,” he said.