Michigan’s economic comeback promising, but incomplete

The original version of this story misstated Michigan’s gross domestic product in 2005 and 2013. The numbers are $433 billion and $408 billion, respectively. The original text incorrectly stated the numbers in trillions.

Economic data can be a glass half-full, half-empty proposition.

Half-full? Most regions in Michigan posted solid GDP gains in 2013 and statewide growth of 2 percent led a five-state Midwest region. The recovery continues.

Half-empty? We're not all the way back.

Michigan gross domestic product has yet to reach its peak output of $433 billion in 2005. It measured $408 billion in 2013, with both figures calculated in 2009 dollars. Moreover, not one of the 14 Michigan regions tracked by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis has reached the output of its peak year.

Former state Treasurer Doug Roberts is not surprised Michigan remains below its peak output of a decade ago. But he's a glass-half-full guy.

“It may take a couple more years, but we are going to get there. We have fundamentally turned around. Are we all the way back? No. But we are going in the right direction.”

The Grand Rapids region is closest to a full comeback, standing just .4 percent below its peak year of 2005. The Jackson region is next, at .7 percent below its peak in 2005 and then the Muskegon region, .9 percent below its peak the same year.

At the other end, the Flint region remained 16.9 percent below its peak in 2003 and Midland 13.4 percent below its peak in 2004. The Saginaw region was 9.1 percent below its peak 2003 and the Detroit region 8 percent below its peak in 2005.

Monroe, which posted the biggest GDP percentage gain in 2013, at 5.5 percent, remains 6.8 percent below its peak in 2003.

As Flint goes

Flint's pain is a microcosm of why Michigan's recovery lags the rest of the country ‒ the implosion of the auto industry. In 1975, the sprawling Flint East auto parts plant was home to 14,000 workers. It ceased operations in 2013, leaving the remaining 287 workers to find other work.

General Motors once employed 80,000 in the Flint area - now fewer than 8,000. Statewide, manufacturing employed 515,000 in 2013 – still 200,000 below 2003.

Flint manufacturing output is 44 percent of its peak year of 2003 and just over half of what it was in 2007. It fell another 4.5 percent in 2013.

Roberts, the former state treasurer, said he believes manufacturing will continue to be critical to Michigan's prosperity in the years ahead. It's still 19 percent of the state economy, after falling to 14.6 percent in 2009. But, he added, tourism, trade and the health-care industry – as it cares for an aging population – will drive the state’s future economic growth.

Facts matter. Trust matters. Journalism matters.

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Tue, 11/11/2014 - 10:46am
"Michigan gross domestic product has yet to reach its peak output of $433 trillion in 2005. It measured $408 trillion in 2013, with both figures calculated in 2009 dollars." Trillion? is this a misprint?
David Zeman
Tue, 11/11/2014 - 8:56pm
Barry, belatedly, you are absolutely correct it's a misprint, a huge one. Thank you so much for pointing it out this morning so that we could correct it. Sometimes, you can look at the same number over and over again and even though it says trillion it enters the brain as billion. Our (very) bad. best, David Zeman Bridge Editor
Lou Glazer
Tue, 11/11/2014 - 12:51pm
GDP is a terrible way to measure how well Michiganders are doing. You can't pay the bills or save for your retirement or kids education with GDP. What matters is jobs and income. And on both Michigan ranks in the bottom tier. With almost no bounce since the start of the Great Recession. GDP may have been correlated with jobs and income in the past, but sure isn't now either here or around the country. That is the fundamental challenge going forward. The economy increasingly can grow without jobs, wages or personal income rising. If we care about Michiganders well being we better be focused on the later measures, not things like GDP.
Fact Checker
Tue, 11/11/2014 - 2:18pm
Well, is there an answer to the 'Trillions of dollars' question? Me thinks author Ted R was out to late the night before he composed the piece. Or perhaps it was just the result of a befuddled junior editor. In another piece from this edition of Bridge, the Detroit number, by far the largest in the state, was just over $200+ billion with Grand Rapids second at $48 billion so where the heck did the 'Trillion numbers' come from
Tue, 11/11/2014 - 3:53pm
The world has changed considerably over my lifetime but our work ethic has also suffered. We have came a long way from being able to support a family without an education or specific skill and the sooner we accept that fact the better. I admire the Stock bridge school system for how they are preparing their students for the future. They have developed a great robotics and building trades program on a very low budget to go along with other high quality education. Last year I observed the robotics and building trades program for about 4 hours and was impressed with the teachers students and the principle of the school. It is not all about money it has a lot to do with the can do attitude of the students and administration. Dale Westrick
Charles Richards
Tue, 11/11/2014 - 4:54pm
Just a quick note on style. In the paragraph about Grand Rapids, Jackson and Muskegon, the changes in GDP are listed as .4 %, .7% and .9% respectively. It would have been better to list them as 0.4%, 0.7% and 0.9%.
James Fuscaldo
Tue, 11/11/2014 - 5:59pm
If Michigan is perceived to be a manufacturing state, then it makes more sense to measure economic growth via a "gross product value" (GP) versus GDP to measure ALL the incremental value of the manufacturing and production side of the equation in Michigan and not just the value of increase at the domestic level i.e. consumer spending. What say you?
Wed, 11/12/2014 - 10:46am
"General Motors once employed 80,000 in the Flint area - now fewer than 8,000. Statewide, manufacturing employed 515,000 in 2013 – still 200,000 below 2003." And most of those manufacturing jobs are now paying much lower wages than they did years ago.