Michigan flatlining on jobs: No job growth expected through 2030
- The state budget agency projects no new job growth in Michigan through 2030
- A contributing factor is the state’s lagging population growth
- State leaders are scrambling to find ways to retain and lure new residents
LANSING—The number of jobs in Michigan is not expected to grow over the next seven years, according to new state employment data projections.
The projection, released Tuesday at the state’s annual Occupational Outlook Conference in Lansing, is at least partly tied to the state’s flagging population growth, said Matthew Dotson, economic projections specialist at the Michigan Center for Data and Analytics, part of the Department of Technology, Management & Budget.
The agency’s 10-year analysis projected 8.8 percent total job growth between 2020 and 2030, but state data experts leading the conference said virtually all that growth is a statistical anomaly related to the pandemic and has already occurred.
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In 2020, the state’s economy was crippled by COVID and accompanying shutdowns of businesses. The job growth in the analysis reflects people returning to work after shutdowns, not traditional economic growth, Dotson said.
One example: The report projects 50 percent growth in restaurant cooks between 2020 and 2030. “We’re not adding 50 percent more restaurants, it’s that restaurants were closed in 2020,” said Scott Powell, chief data officer and director of the Center for Data and Analytics.
“The baseline we were measuring, that was the low point” of economic struggles caused by the pandemic, Powell said. Going forward, “we are looking at a mostly flat projection.”
That’s bad news for a state that is trying to jump start its economy, and adds pressure on efforts by the administration of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to retain young adults, get more of them to obtain a post-high-school degree or certificate and lure more out-of-staters to move here.
Despite little or no job growth, businesses are struggling to find workers for the job openings they have now, partly because Michigan isn’t increasing in population like other states.
Michigan ranks 49th in population growth since 1990, ahead of only West Virginia. Births are plummeting and deaths are rising. More people pack up and leave the state every year than residents of other states move in. And those who remain are getting older — the median age of a Michigander was 40.1 in 2020, ranking 38th in the nation.
Businesses struggle to expand because they can’t find enough workers, and out-of-state companies are hesitant to build in Michigan for fear they won’t find employees.
“The demographics and the population of the state … feed into the projections,” Dotson said.
And it’s not a new trend: The agency’s former projection, made in 2018, for the decade through 2028, predicted job growth of only 0.1 percent.
This summer, Whitmer created a population commission to study ways to retain and attract residents, and the administration recently launched ads in Georgia, Indiana, Florida, Texas, Tennessee, and South Carolina touting Michigan’s progressive policies on issues such as abortion and LGBTQ rights to attract residents from more politically conservative states.
The second-term Democratic governor has also invested heavily in education, from taxpayer-funded preschool to free community college, to try to increase the percentage of adults with post-secondary degrees or certificates.
On average, people with education beyond high school earn more money, which not only aids families, but adds to taxes the state collects that can in turn be used for things like road repairs. States with more college graduates are also more attractive to companies looking to relocate or expand operations.
In Michigan, 51 percent of adults with a high school diploma are in the workforce, compared to 72 percent of those with a bachelor’s degree or higher. Five years after graduation, those whose highest level of education is high school earn, on average, $27,400, compared to $46,800 for those with a two-year associate’s degree and $58,000 for those with a bachelor’s degree.
In her first State of the State address in 2019, Whitmer announced a goal of having 60 percent of Michigan adults with a post-secondary certificate or degree by 2030. Currently, the figure is about 50.5 percent, below the national average of 53 percent.
Whitmer spearheaded programs that offered free community college tuition for residents deemed essential workers during the first frightening months of the pandemic, and for residents over age 25 who hadn’t yet earned a college degree. Other programs are expected to be launched in the coming months geared toward job training programs.
It’s too early to measure the impact of efforts to make college more affordable, said Sarah Szurpicki, director of the administration’s Office of Sixty by 30.
“We need to change the trendline on immediate enrollment of traditional-age students going to college, (and) we need to then increase our (graduation) rates across pretty much all of our institutions,” said Szurpicki, who spoke at Tuesday’s conference.
“We need to increase enrollment of adults and every post-secondary pathway that can lead to success. And we need to do a better job of making sure that the sub-degree credentials lead to good wages. We need to change all those trends.”
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