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Posted on Thu, Mar 10, 2011 : 5:59 a.m.

Ann Arbor area poised to add 8,000 jobs over next 3 years, University of Michigan economists report

By Nathan Bomey

Job growth is back.

Washtenaw County is in the midst of a steady economic recovery that will nearly erase the massive job losses of the last decade, according to a new economic forecast conducted by the University of Michigan for

The county is expected to add 8,840 jobs from 2011 through 2013 as the region’s unemployment rate declines from an average of 8.6 percent in 2010 to 7.2 percent in 2011, 7.0 percent in 2012 and 6.7 percent in 2013, according to the forecast.

2011-13 Washtenaw County economic outlook

You can download the University of Michigan's 2011-13 Washtenaw County economic forecast report here. Follow's Business Review for more coverage of the forecast over the next few days.

Also, visit this afternoon to read coverage of the corresponding Economic Outlook Luncheon at Washtenaw Community College, where Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder is expected to speak.

Job growth will occur in a broad range of sectors, according to the forecast released by U-M economists George Fulton and Don Grimes.

“It’s not just in one or two sectors. It’s really fairly broad-based, and that makes us more optimistic that the recovery will be sustained,” Fulton said in an interview. “I think this is the best news story we’ve had in several years.”

The county economy’s gradual recovery, in fact, has already begun. In 2010, Washtenaw added 4,087 jobs, the economists estimated.

That came after four consecutive years of job losses worsened by the collapse of the Michigan economy, the auto industry’s implosion and the global financial crisis. Washtenaw lost 13,429 jobs from 2006 through 2009.

Those job losses serve as a reminder that the economy’s gradual recovery won’t seem like a recovery to all workers, Fulton said. If the U-M forecast is accurate, the Ann Arbor area will still have 500 fewer jobs in 2013 as it had in 2005.

“It does not mean the economy is back to normal,” the economists wrote in their report. “Indeed, the economic struggles will continue for many residents, and they take little comfort in the knowledge that the worst is over at some level outside of where they operate.”

Among the key findings in the economists’ report: Manufacturing is far from dead. After years of astonishing job losses in the region’s manufacturing sector, local manufacturers are slowly adding jobs, according to the forecast.


Circuitry manufacturer Saline Lectronics, led by CEO Mario Sciberras, plans to hire up to 20 new employees. Overall, a new economic forecast projects moderate job growth for the Washtenaw County manufacturing sector after years of losses.

Nathan Bomey |

The rapid stabilization of General Motors, Ford and Chrysler after the auto industry’s crisis helped Washtenaw’s manufacturing base return to stability.

The number of workers in the local manufacturing sector fell nearly 60 percent, or by 17,814, from 1999 to 2009. But in 2010, manufacturers added 538 jobs - and the forecast projects that manufacturers will add another 414 jobs from 2011 through 2013.

It’s far from a growth engine, but it’s stability - and that provides a base for the rest of the economy to grow, Fulton said.

Calling the sector stable is particularly remarkable considering the fact that GM in December shuttered the 5 million-square-foot Willow Run plant. The historic plant employed more than 1,300 workers in Ypsilanti Township when GM announced in June 2009 that it would close the facility.

But at the same time, Ford-controlled supplier Automotive Components Holdings ramped up its Saline plant to full capacity. The facility has about 2,000 workers now, although ACH’s Milan plant cut about 200 positions in 2010.

“The big difference is manufacturing is now adding a moderate number of jobs rather than cutting lots of them,” Fulton said.

Much of the manufacturing job growth in Washtenaw County will come from firms like Saline Lectronics, an advanced manufacturer that produces customized circuitry for several industries.

Saline Lectronics has about 126 employees, up from 82 about a year ago. The company, which has benefited from deals with local customers such as Tecumseh Products and Accuri Cytometers, is currently seeking to hire three additional technicians.

“We will be continuing to hire,” Saline Lectronics CEO Mario Sciberras said. “Another 20-person increase in our job growth is well within range.”

Many companies are still cautious about hiring, concerned that the economy is still too weak to get aggressive.

Longtime Ann Arbor technology executive Dwight Carlson, CEO of Pittsfield Township-based 3D measurement products maker Coherix, said he’s hesitant to boost hiring too quickly.

“I would like to add 10 to 15 people right now, but we’re really cautious, like everyone else. That’s the problem,” Carlson said.

Some 90 percent of the private sector job growth is expected to come from service providers, while 10 percent will come from goods producers, the economic forecast projects.

outlook fulton.jpg

University of Michigan economist George Fulton

Melanie Maxwell |

Among the key drivers is the region’s massive health care industry, which is poised to reap huge dividends from demographic shifts as baby boomers age.

Private ambulatory health care services providers will add about 479 jobs from 2010 to 2013. But that figure does not include the University of Michigan Health System, whose job figures are included under the state government segment.

The region’s government sector is expected to add 2,887 jobs from 2010 to 2013. Most of that is attributable to state government, which includes U-M, the U-M Health System and Eastern Michigan University.

The number of local workers employed by the federal government is expected to fall by 214, while the number of local government workers is expected to remain flat.

Budget cuts by the state government, local governmental units and school districts may lead to job losses for some governmental employees, the economists said.

Eight of the county’s top 10 employers rely on governmental funding for at least part of their budget, according to a recent analysis.

“It is possible that the declines in government could be more severe than what we’re forecasting,” Grimes said. “But government seems to turn out stronger than we think every time we do a forecast. It just seems to hold up better.”

The biggest driver of private sector job growth over the next three years will be professional and business services, which includes most of the region’s technology companies and consulting firms.

The professional and business services segment is expected to add 1,610 jobs over the next three years after adding 961 in 2010.

That includes 549 new jobs in the employment services sector, which typically means temporary jobs.

One of the big beneficiaries of a better economy is the restaurant sector. The “food services and drinking places” sector is expected to add 784 jobs from 2010 to 2013.

Although new jobs are projected in most major industries, workers who have just a high school degree will still have a hard time getting work, the economists said.

The good news for the region is that Washtenaw County has the second highest percentage of residents with a higher education degree among the 366 metropolitan areas in the country, according to statistics from 2000.

“If I had two wishes and I could make them happen, I would say continue to have a stable auto sector and rank near the top on these education statistics,” Fulton said. "Rank near the top of the heap and then I’m comfortable stepping aside and letting that economy operate. I think it’s bound to do well.”

Even in the auto industry, a two-year degree is typically required to work on the assembly line today, said David Cole, chairman emeritus of the Ann Arbor-based Center for Automotive Research.

“There’s no factory jobs for high school dropouts,” Cole said.

Other subsectors expected to add jobs from 2010 to 2013 include retail trade (288); finance and insurance (236); and arts, entertainment and recreation (223).

Contact's Nathan Bomey at (734) 623-2587 or You can also follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's newsletters.



Thu, Mar 10, 2011 : 9:53 p.m.

These are the same guys who were calling for even higher and more prolonged unemployment when it was peaking 18 months or so ago. So if they were overly negative at the low point, what's to keep them from over optimism as in the dead cat bounces a bit at present? This is probably a good sign that the bounce is about to go bust, and the cat will resume its downward journey. If you pile enough pearls on a pig, it starts to look pretty good, 'cause you can't really SEE the pig any longer!


Thu, Mar 10, 2011 : 8:39 p.m.

@kathryn The benefits to the State are far more important than the benefits to a politcal party. Your "my-party-is-being-wronged" approach is part of what led the State into the doldrums. Who cares who gets credit. We need to turn this morass around

Edward R Murrow's Ghost

Thu, Mar 10, 2011 : 7:35 p.m.

I was curious as to how long it would take for the nattering nabobs of negativism who inhabit's discussion boards to complain about this article. Answer: the very first post and the vast majority thereafter. Guess there's no such thing as "good news." Good Night and Good Luck


Thu, Mar 10, 2011 : 7:05 p.m.

What's depressing is that the growth is already underway, while the new Republican administration of the state will take credit for the growth, claiming it was all a result of business tax cuts. Sigh.

Yeah buddy

Thu, Mar 10, 2011 : 3:32 p.m.

First of all, no politician can really do anything about oil prices so that should be a non issue. I do hope these estimated jobs come to fruition, but more employment is hard to notice when it seems like places are going out of business left and right. I have a feeling that most of these jobs will be University related as it seems UM is in its own little economic bubble.

Top Cat

Thu, Mar 10, 2011 : 1:34 p.m.

I hope they are right. However doors are starting to close on the acceptance of more Federal debt. The Obama administration is strangling our energy producing industries. Obamacare is causing double digit growth in many companies health insurance. Long term interest rates are starting to rise. The head winds look ominous.


Thu, Mar 10, 2011 : 5:55 p.m.

FYI - using the term "Obamacare" exposes one as being rather uninformed. My guess is that you don't mind the provisions relating to pre-existing conditions, lifetime caps on policies, etc. If there is a specific portion of the bill that you don't care for then please direct your angst at that specific portion (there are many). Also, I personally am for more "strangling" of the oil companies by taking away their tax breaks (it must be nice to make billions per quarter). And sure, interest rates are going to go up because they can't get any lower - I'm more worried about inflation (which I think is the point you are making).

David Briegel

Thu, Mar 10, 2011 : 1:27 p.m.

The Obama recovery us underway. Taxes are the lowest of the modern era. Profits at record high levels. 2 trillion sitting in the corporate coffers. While govt jobs are decreasing, private sector jobs continue to increase. We have done what is required. Now it is up to the AMERICAN Fortune 500 to invest in America or follow their greed to China.


Thu, Mar 10, 2011 : 1:18 p.m.

First of all Ann Arbor is to expensive to start a company in. The rent/lease itself is going to kill a lot of businesses. Second the cost of living is to high. Unless the minimum wages are decreased, add payroll to the high price of rent, and you have nothing but a failure waiting to happen. Most start-up companies will be here for a year or two then either have to close their doors or move to a more cost effective region.

zip the cat

Thu, Mar 10, 2011 : 1:12 p.m.

Its absured to think that times are getting better in this state. I guess the ones who think it is are the well to do. The average joe with a family thinks otherwise. I guess they havent been to the store lately or bought any gas or tried to pay all the bills. For the less to do its, Do I pay the gas and electric bill this month or do I put the money in the gas tank to get to work.

Wolf's Bane

Thu, Mar 10, 2011 : 1:11 p.m.

Is it an accident that they both look like Rasputin? 8,840 jobs from 2011 through 2013? Where do they get these exact figures?

Wolf's Bane

Thu, Mar 10, 2011 : 1:30 p.m.

Thanks for the link.

Paula Gardner

Thu, Mar 10, 2011 : 1:16 p.m.

The report is available here: <a href=""></a> It details the methodology and you'll see exact numbers broken down by industry/job type.


Thu, Mar 10, 2011 : 1:09 p.m.

I'm a glass is half full kind a guy and it's always good to be 'poised'.....However, I'm still waiting for those 1000 Google jobs to appear. Only 800 to go! At least that's what Gov. Blown Away said. To bad she couldn't add to our employment numbers but she had to leave her adopted State of Michigan to find work.

Wolf's Bane

Thu, Mar 10, 2011 : 1:15 p.m.

I don't think that's a fair statement. She was most likely quoted these figures by Google management that then adjusted the positions based on need, not promises. So, please try again. Thanks.


Thu, Mar 10, 2011 : 11:55 a.m.

What gas price and rate of housing foreclosure are they assuming? For some odd reason, economic forecasts always seem to assume low gas prices and stable housing. I would expect their forecast for jobs to be close this year and then off in the second two years due to an unexpected economic decline due to high gas prices and continued housing market decline.


Thu, Mar 10, 2011 : 5:32 p.m.

Paula, the only mention in the report of energy is a single instance of the full name of MI DELEG. The only mention of gasoline is employment at gas stations, and there is no mention of fuel. Where do you see any reference to gas prices? The report is predicting a strong recovery in automotive manufacturing, but we know that one of the first areas people cut back when gas prices rise is in automobile purchases. They're even projecting a gain in government jobs. Looks like an overly optimistic report to me.


Thu, Mar 10, 2011 : 5:04 p.m.

Fuel prices compound. True, the amount of money spent on fuel by each of us represents a relatively small percentage of our total annual outlay. Fuel, however, is required to transport goods via aircraft, ship, train or truck.. it drives up the costs of raw goods (bulldozers and earth-moving equipment run on fuel too) as well as retail items. Municipal fuel needs for buses, public works and emergency vehicles draw a greater percentage of available funds. The cumulative impact of increasing oil prices is far greater than what it costs each of us individually to fill our tanks.

Paula Gardner

Thu, Mar 10, 2011 : 12:44 p.m.

The report does take gas prices into account. If you get a chance, you can download it here <a href=""></a> It's lengthy, but pretty easy reading - and will answer your questions. We also have a follow up coming that specifically tackles the gas price question.


Thu, Mar 10, 2011 : 12:34 p.m.

Gas (fuel) prices have a minimal impact on the overall economy s they represent a small percentage of total out of pocket costs for consumers (~7%). It is pretty clear that the global economy is in a growth period and the area has done a good job of designing business and operating models that support the global economy.