Michigan's economic news is starting to look upbeat
Gov. Jennifer Granholm acknowledged on Labor Day that Michigan was a full participant in what Time magazine called "the decade from hell" for the United States.
Fairly or not, many blame Granholm for leading Michigan straight into Hades after taking office in 2003.
But as she wraps up her last few months as the state's chief executive officer, Granholm may be earning a measure of redemption.
There has been a lot of upbeat economic news of late that isn't getting as much attention as it deserves.
Why is that? Maybe it's because we've become so cynical and downtrodden that we can no longer accept that anything positive is happening in the state economy.
If I were to tell you, for instance, that Michigan led the nation in job growth in July, many of you likely wouldn't believe it.
But it's true. Michigan added 27,800 payroll jobs in July, more than any other state, according to the latest figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. You can look it up.
One month does not an economic recovery make. But even the Mackinac Center for Public Policy--no friend of the Granholm administration--is sounding upbeat.
Mackinac Center fiscal analyst James Hohman wrote last month that "2010 is on pace for the state to actually grow in employment. If it happens, this will be the first time since 2000 that Michigan adds jobs over the year."
Other economic indicators are pointing up, as well.
Comerica Bank's Michigan Business Activity Index in July recorded its highest reading since December 2004.
The index, which measures activity in the construction, manufacturing and service sectors, as well as job growth and consumer spending, is up 13 percent from the average of all of 2009.
Manpower Inc.'s latest hiring survey found the Grand Rapids area is expected to be the third-strongest region in the country for hiring during the final three months of the year.
Comerica Bank senior economist Dana Johnson said Michigan's struggling housing market appears to be staging a recovery.
Residential building permits are up 36 percent through July, compared to a 7 percent increase for the nation as a whole.
"Once people in Michigan become more convinced that their jobs are secure and that house prices have stabilized, demand will begin to build and homebuilding will start contributing to a more broadly based recovery," Johnson said.
And there is evidence that the worst may be over for layoffs.
Mass firings reported to the state are at their lowest level in four years. Through the end of August, 3,010 workers have lost their jobs through major layoffs and plant closings, down from 17,329 in the same period a year ago.
This isn't to say that Michigan is becoming an economic paradise. The state's unemployment rate is the second highest in the nation at 13.1 percent.
Adding to the pain of joblessness is that 41 percent of Michigan unemployed workers in 2009 were out of a job for more than six months, according to a new study by the Michigan League for Human Services.
That's up from just 6.5 percent who were jobless for at least six months in 2000.
It's clear that the economy of the state and the nation will not fully recover until jobs return.
Michigan might not yet be an economic heaven on earth, but at least the inferno is no longer raging. E-mail Rick Haglund at firstname.lastname@example.org