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Posted on Thu, Mar 29, 2012 : 5:59 a.m.

Ann Arbor area to add 11,000 jobs over 3-year stretch

By Nathan Bomey

Related story: Washtenaw County economy in robust recovery: But are they good jobs?

(Editor's note: This story is part of a series of stories on the Ann Arbor area economy that starts today and continues through Sunday.)

For the Ann Arbor area, the late 1990s are back — at least when it comes to job growth.

Washtenaw County is expected to add 11,038 jobs overall in 2012, 2013 and 2014, according to a forecast conducted by University of Michigan economists for

The forecast indicates that Washtenaw has entered a prolonged period of job growth — starting in the fourth quarter of 2009 and extending through 2014 — that resembles the robust period of 1995 to 2000.


Construction continues at a new hotel near Briarwood Mall. Washtenaw County's leisure and hospitality sector is expected to add 684 jobs over the next three years.

Angela J. Cesere |


Larry Freed, CEO of customer satisfaction measurement firm ForeSee, said his Ann Arbor company has hired about 20 former Borders employees. ForeSee has enjoyed revenue growth of at least 25 percent for 40 consecutive quarters.

Angela J. Cesere |

The study, conducted by economists George Fulton and Don Grimes, predicts Washtenaw County will have more jobs by the end of 2013 than it had at its previous peak in summer 2002. The study examined the local economy through 2014.

“Knowing where we were in 2009, that’s when it really hit home to me that we’re seeing a pretty good recovery here,” Fulton said in an interview. “I wasn’t surprised at all by the recovery, but I was surprised by the pace of it.”

The county is expected to add 3,004 jobs in 2012, 3,591 in 2013 and 4,443 in 2014, according to the forecast. That would come after the county added 5,178 jobs in 2010 and 3,268 jobs in 2011.

The economists, who have been conducting the forecast since 1986, have projected local job growth with an annual average error of 0.7 percent.


This graphic shows historic and project job growth for Washtenaw County.

Graphic courtesy of University of Michigan economists


This graphic shows historic and projected unemployment rates in Washtenaw County.

Graphic courtesy of University of Michigan economists

Washtenaw’s unemployment rate is expected to fall from an average of 5.5 percent in 2012 to 5.2 percent in 2013 and 4.7 percent in 2014. The rate in January 2012 was 5.6 percent, according to the Michigan Department of Technology, Management & Budget.

The economists found that the fastest growing segment of the Washtenaw County economy is high-wage jobs.

“Getting the job growth in the higher paying industries is really what you want to have,” Grimes said. “Eventually that shows up in the long run in the prosperity of the community.”

The forecast reflects an improved economic outlook for the U.S. and for the state of Michigan, whose unemployment rate hit 8.8 percent in February, the lowest it’s been since August 2008. The state’s manufacturing sector has surged from its low point in 2009, when General Motors and Chrysler filed for bankruptcy.

Manufacturers are expected to add 1,149 jobs in Washtenaw over the next three years. Local manufacturers — which shed 17,814 jobs from 1999 to 2009, a 60 percent decline caused mainly by the auto industry’s contraction — added about 1,618 jobs in 2010 and 2011.

Click here to download Washtenaw County economic forecast 2012-14 (PDF)

But the pace of job growth in the local manufacturing sector is projected to slow — and U-M economists expect future economic growth to be spread out among many industries, with non-manufacturing sources generating 58 percent of the new jobs.

“This isn’t just a one-trick pony — something doing really well,” Fulton said. “And that’s always a good sign in the recovery when it’s diffusing throughout the sectors.”

Fulton said it’s common for manufacturing to lead the early stages of a recovery, boosting many sectors of the economy.

“We see a resurgence obviously from the autos, but what we’re seeing, particularly in Ann Arbor, is a diversification of our economy across a variety of technologies,” said Paul Krutko, CEO of economic development group Ann Arbor SPARK.

Tim Bristle, a recruiter for financial products firm Primerica, which spun off of Citigroup more than two years ago, said he's hiring 90 employees throughout Michigan.

Primerica, which operates a training office in Ann Arbor, is hiring independent financial advisers for offices in Hillsdale, Kalamazoo and Detroit. Primerica, a publicly traded company, is also considering opening an office in Chelsea.

“We’re going through a huge expansion,” Bristle said while meeting job seekers at Washtenaw Community College’s 15th annual Spring Job Fair and Nonprofit Showcase on March 20.

Private sector growth

About 63 percent of Washtenaw jobs are in the private sector, while 37 percent of positions are classified as government jobs, a figure that includes the massive U-M Health System, which is often hiring.

With the exception of job growth at the U-M Health System and U-M campus, which are expected to power the state government sector to 3,633 more jobs over the next three years, very few job gains are expected in the rest of government. Most of the job growth comes in the private sector.

The economists project Washtenaw will add 19,484 private and public jobs from 2009-14, compared to 20,008 new jobs from 1995-2000.

Those numbers, albeit encouraging, shroud the major contraction in the local economy that occurred during a four-year stretch starting in 2006. Washtenaw lost 13,429 jobs from 2006 through 2009, including 5,712 in 2009, as Michigan’s economy collapsed in the midst of the auto and financial crises.

And to be sure, job losses continue to occur in pockets of the local economy. In 2011, Ann Arbor-based bookstore chain Borders Group Inc. filed for bankruptcy and eventually liquidated, eliminating about 400 corporate jobs and another 125 retail jobs in Washtenaw County.

Web technologies, online retail and software innovation are presenting challenges for some industries — like retailers and the book-printing sector.

Longtime independent Ann Arbor area book printers Edwards Brothers and Malloy, which collectively employ about 600 local workers, announced in February that they had merged to create a more efficient, sustainable company.

Internet-based innovation offers opportunities for many other companies, such as Ann Arbor-based customer satisfaction measurement firm ForeSee, Business Review’s 2011 Company of the Year, and Ann Arbor-based Mobiata, which manages mobile software development for

ForeSee, which employs about 200 people in Ann Arbor, has hired about 20 former Borders employees, CEO Larry Freed told The company has enjoyed revenue growth of at least 25 percent for 40 consecutive quarters since its founding in 2001.

“Basically anything that involves paper seems to be suffering in the destruction phase, and the electronic stuff seems to be in the creative phase,” Grimes said.

Indeed, the forecast depicts a dynamic local economy that has reached a stage where new jobs in promising industries are offsetting job losses in struggling sectors.

By the end of 2013, Washtenaw will have more jobs than it had at its peak in summer 2002, according to the forecast.

Good jobs?

The fastest-growth segment of the economy over the next three years will be in high-wage industries, which the economists define as more than $57,000. The number of high-wage jobs is expected to rise 7.7 percent through 2014. The number of jobs with wages of $27,000 to $57,000 will increase 5.9 percent, while the number of jobs with salaries below $27,000 will rise 4.4 percent.

Grimes cautioned that growth in the number of high-wage jobs “doesn’t necessarily mean that people that were already in the higher-wage sectors were getting a raise,” he said.

In fact, many residents are still discouraged by depressed housing prices and stagnant investment accounts.

“People may feel a lot poorer,” Grimes said. “So the asset side of the balance sheet is still making people unhappy.”

Fulton said the shifting economy is also widening the gap between workers who have an education and people who don’t. It’s getting harder to get a job without an education.

“A number of residents are still not invested in the recovery,” Fulton said.

Still, Washtenaw is outperforming the rest of the state — mostly because of the stability provided by local universities, a thriving health care industry, a growing entrepreneurial sector and a service sector that’s enjoying momentum.

Much of the growth is possible because about 60.4 percent of county residents ages 25-64 have at least a two-year degree, compared with 35.6 percent of Michigan residents, according to U.S. Census data studied by the Lumina Foundation for Education. Washtenaw has the lowest unemployment rate of Michigan’s 83 counties.

But getting an education doesn’t necessarily guarantee a job.

Siyuan Xing, who earned a biomedical engineering degree from the University of Michigan in 2011, is hunting for a research position from a local company. After graduation, he spent a year working for his family business — which, he said, set him back in his job search.

If he can’t get a job, he said, “I might have to leave” the area.

Service industries

Manufacturing dominated high-wage job growth in Washtenaw over the last two years, but U-M projects that service industries will account for most of the high-wage growth in the next few years.

The professional and business services sector — a broad segment that often reflects the general health of the private sector — is expected to add 2,290 jobs in 2012, 2013 and 2014. Most of those are scientific and technical jobs, such as computer systems design and engineering services.

Krutko, CEO of SPARK, said the economic development group’s experience shows that much of the job growth is coming from small- to mid-sized companies that are adding 5 to 10 employees at a time.

“Our emphasis is on those kind of jobs — jobs that are selling goods and services to the rest of the nation or globally,” he said. “If you’re creating jobs there, then all the supporting jobs in the economy happen — the business support, the accounting firms, people who are working in legal firms and all the retail firms that have those customers.”

The private education and health services industry — which includes the approximately 5,000 employees of the St. Joseph Mercy Health System in Washtenaw County — is expected to add 1,193 jobs over the next three years.

Nursing homes and residential care facilities will add 405 jobs during that period.

Nonprofit senior care service providers like Evangelical Homes of Michigan, which employs several hundred workers in Saline, and Glacier Hills Senior Living Community, which is completing a $25 million expansion in Ann Arbor, are contributing toward that growth.

The economists predicted that the leisure and hospitality segment would add 684 positions over the next three years. Two new hotels — Hilton Garden Inn and Towne Place Suites by Marriottare currently under construction near Briarwood Mall.

The employment services sector, which includes temporary workers, is expected to add 757 jobs by 2014.

The United States Postal Service is poised to cut jobs, but those losses will be offset by other new federal jobs. The local government sector will cut 108 jobs in 2012, but add 203 in 2014, “as the finances of local governments and K-12 school districts slowly improve,” according to the report.

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


sam time

Thu, Mar 29, 2012 : 11:28 p.m.

Good news. The City will continue to thrive and help the State..


Thu, Mar 29, 2012 : 7:38 p.m.

At the rate of increase crime around Ann Arbor, you'll have 11,000 less citizens, that's my prediction.

Fordham Williams

Thu, Mar 29, 2012 : 7:21 p.m.

I went to University in Ann Arbor, MI and worked in the community for 2.5 years. After graduation I couldn't wait to leave. After doing some initial job prospecting for my field I found that there was much greater opportunity outside Michigan. To me Ann Arbor felt quite small minded and insular. I am happy to be done with that town. Don't mean to offend - just an observation.


Thu, Mar 29, 2012 : 5:13 p.m.

Story right under this on A2 is Best Buy to close 50 stores. Lohr rd. did not say. Kind of ironic. HUH !.

Linda Peck

Thu, Mar 29, 2012 : 4:10 p.m.

This may happen, things are moving quickly here in Ann Arbor and we are in a position for a good amount of growth, with a few improvements that still need to happen - roads, police/fire, wireless service upgrade. I think we are lookin' good!


Thu, Mar 29, 2012 : 2:58 p.m.

Further proof that Ann Arbor is hostile to job creators and a socialist hellscape.


Thu, Mar 29, 2012 : 2:36 p.m.


Dog Guy

Thu, Mar 29, 2012 : 2:33 p.m.

Economists continue their Ardnassac performance: an opposite of Cassandra believed by everyone, but never right in their prophecies.


Thu, Mar 29, 2012 : 2:23 p.m.

Aside from a few skeptics, Ann Arbor is the hub of a major university. There should be plenty of opportunities in high tech, medical, finance and even engineering. Aside from a cold winter climate, it is one of the most liveable cities in the Upper Midwest.

Top Cat

Thu, Mar 29, 2012 : 1:43 p.m.

I guess it's about time for the quarterly re-print of the self serving drivel from the Realtors about how home sales are up and home prices are up. "When the facts conflict with the legend, print the legend."

Michigan Man

Thu, Mar 29, 2012 : 1:28 p.m.

Solid work by Mark Ouimet and Rick Snyder - both fine Ann Arbor community leaders. What great news for Ann Arbor, Washtenaw County and the State of Michigan.


Thu, Mar 29, 2012 : 2:52 p.m.

No Doubt Obama is the hero! LOL


Thu, Mar 29, 2012 : 2:19 p.m.

The only reason the job market has fallen is because a lot of people can't get UIA benefits because they have been cut off. So they apply for welfare. One way to not be able to count in the stats of the unemployed still looking for jobs. Most times the unemployed end up moving out of the state to find work. What a way to get out of paying UIA benefits. Michigan still can't get reliable people to work at Mc D wages.


Thu, Mar 29, 2012 : 1:54 p.m.

You're being sarcastic, aren't you? What they've done--especially Ouimet--have had very little to do with this.

Will Hathaway

Thu, Mar 29, 2012 : 1:22 p.m.

One reason to put stock in this prediction is that Fulton and Grimes have been doing this forecast every year for 25 years and, with rare exceptions, they have a record for accuracy: Speaking as someone looking for employment, it gives me hope to read that the local economy is improving. I want one of these jobs. I would rather put faith in economic forecasts of job growth than in some of the negative comments that seem to reflexively pop up each morning in response to articles.


Thu, Mar 29, 2012 : 1:12 p.m.

"The economists, who have been conducting the forecast since 1986, have projected local job growth with an annual average error of 0.7 percent." Cheer up. These people know more than you. The consensus feeling that things are getting better is a lagging indicator of an economic recovery.


Thu, Mar 29, 2012 : 2:51 p.m.

"lagging indicator of an economic recovery" That means you wait to see which way the wind is blowing then announce it!


Thu, Mar 29, 2012 : 1:01 p.m.

I still know of a lot of people in Washtenaw County that want to work but cannot find jobs! They are educated and have experience. A lot of these people are "no longer unemployed" because they do not report in to "MARVIN" since Michigan no longer provides extensions on unemployment benefits. ( an easy way to reduce the unemployment rate) They do this at the Federal level also, That's why the unemployment rate is under 9% when it is really about 11%.

Basic Bob

Thu, Mar 29, 2012 : 3:30 p.m.

After two years on unemployment, I think I would give up on the forecasts and move someplace where the economy is better. Or find a different line of work, even one that pays less. After all, even minimum wage is more than ZERO wage.


Thu, Mar 29, 2012 : 1:47 p.m.

The way I heard it XMO, if they cannot find jobs...they are lazy. Funny how the Talking Points change for convenience!


Thu, Mar 29, 2012 : 12:39 p.m.

Great news


Thu, Mar 29, 2012 : 2:50 p.m.

I expect you have already headed to the bank to invest more money!


Thu, Mar 29, 2012 : 12:33 p.m.

What a bunch of baloney. Predictions are just that only. Numbers can be made to look like anything on paper. I keep hearing things are so much better and I am sure a lot of people can agree they are not. These people that make these predictions need to come out into the real world.


Thu, Mar 29, 2012 : 11:08 a.m.

Why pray tell should we put ANY stock in this prediction? They come out with a new 3 year prediction every 3 months! How do their predictions of the last 5 years line up with what actually happened?


Fri, Mar 30, 2012 : 1:36 p.m.

Ok johnney "Typical of the right wing naysayers who think the world is falling apart. INTELLIGENT people revise their predictions as NEW facts come into play. Another thing conservatives are not willing to do." OH! I get it, you mean like Obama changes his direction depending on where he is speaking at the time! That's the liberal way!


Fri, Mar 30, 2012 : 12:12 a.m.

jcj, OK jcj, I guess you prefer a weather forecast to be made a YEAR in advance rather than as the time it matters APPROACHES? That is pretty stupid thinking. Typical of the right wing naysayers who think the world is falling apart. INTELLIGENT people revise their predictions as NEW facts come into play. Another thing conservatives are not willing to do.

Oxford Companies

Thu, Mar 29, 2012 : 6:05 p.m.

JCJ... I believe you are referring to the forecast for the State, which was released in November. That would be different from this report, which is for Washtenaw County (Ann Arbor MSA). Regardless, the purpose of a forecast is to give a best guess given the information available. As new information becomes available, it is useful to adjust these predictions accordingly. I doubt that these economists have made any representations that their forecasts will become reality, and as I mentioned they are very transparent about previous guesses and by how much they were off.


Thu, Mar 29, 2012 : 2:49 p.m.

Oxford WRONG! The difference is George Fulton released a forecast for the State Nov 11 2011. They release a forecast four times a year. If they are so smart why not release a forecast once a year for the following year and stand by it or admit when they blew it. It's like the weather forecaster telling us we will have sun next week. Then revising the forecast when the clouds come out

Oxford Companies

Thu, Mar 29, 2012 : 1:36 p.m.

JCJ... scroll all the way down to page 5 of the report. They list the accuracy of their predictions for the last 20+ years. Historically, the predictions have been very accurate, and they even go so far as to provide commentary on the discrepancies. This report is released once a year, I believe.