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Economic forecasters predict job growth for Washtenaw County through 2026

Vaseline 2 months ago

ANN ARBOR – Job growth in Washtenaw County is expected to surpass the state in 2026 in a “decidedly healthy” outlook, according to the Washtenaw County Economic Outlook 2024-2026 released today.

The 39th annual report was presented at the President’s Leadership Recognition Luncheon, hosted by Dr. Rose B. Bellanca, president of Washtenaw Community College.

The report was researched and written by economists at the University of Michigan’s Research Seminar in Quantitative Economics and released by Gabriel Ehrlich, Ph.D., and Donald Grimes, well-known national economists and authors. (Click on the cover photo to read the full report.)

Bellanca hosted 250 business, industry, government and community leaders to thank them for their support of Washtenaw Community College, which educates and prepares students to fill the county’s workforce pipeline. More than 30 industry advisory boards, made up of executives from various industries, help shape academic programs based on industry needs.

“As business and community leaders, we all play an important role in driving economic development in our region,” Bellanca said. “The annual outlook helps the council chart its course to best respond to the talent development needs within the province.”

The authors predict continued payroll employment growth through 2026, with employment expected to rise 3.7% from pre-pandemic levels. Statewide, growth compared to pre-pandemic levels is projected at 2.4%.

“We believe the resilience of the county’s economy, fueled by innovation, entrepreneurial activity and a knowledge economy, positions Washtenaw for further progress in the years ahead,” the report said.

The strength of the public sector, which includes the province’s higher education institutions, is a major contributor to the expected growth.

“The majority of government job growth in the county comes from state government jobs, reflecting the resilience of Washtenaw’s higher education sector. Other notable growth is occurring in the private health and social services sector and the accommodation and food services sector,” the report said.

Overall, jobs in the higher education sector, which includes jobs in financial, professional, scientific and technical services, are expected to grow from 140,858 in 2022 to 151,299 in 2026.

The number of blue-collar jobs, including utilities, transportation, construction, manufacturing and wholesale, is expected to grow from 27,591 in 2022 to 29,440 in 2026.

The number of jobs in the primary education sector, including retail, hospitality, administrative services and support services, is expected to grow from 43,623 in 2022 to 46,034 in 2026.

Additionally, a slow decline in the province’s unemployment rate is expected, from 3.3% in the fourth quarter of 2023 to 2.8% by the end of 2026.

The economic challenges cited include tepid growth in real wages and affordable housing.

Specific to housing, the economists warned that Washtenaw County is not building housing at the pace needed to meet growing demand. “The housing shortage has contributed to rising local housing costs. This trend could threaten the province’s ability to support the growth we predict.”

The report also points to the aging population statewide. “Despite our rosy forecast, it is important not to lose sight of longer-term demographic developments.”

By the end of 2026, more than 20% of Michigan residents will be 65 or older. “Michigan’s aging population will ultimately act as a speed limit for both the state and county, stunting growth as more residents approach retirement age,” the report said.

“Washtenaw County’s status as home to several higher education institutions will help it offset these demographic pressures, but even Washtenaw is not immune to Michigan’s projected aging trend.”

For the first time, economists also examined entrepreneurial activity and found that the growth in the number of self-employed has been increasing since the pandemic. In Washtenaw County, the share of total private employment held by self-employed or business owners grew from 16.5% in 2000 to 29% in 2022. The pace of business filings in the county is also increasing, reaching one-third in 2022. above the 2015-2019 average.

Ehrlich is director of the University of Michigan’s Research Seminar in Quantitative Economics, a modeling and forecasting unit that provides national and state economic forecasts four times a year.

UM economists Jacob T. Burton and Michael R. McWilliams of the Research Seminar in Quantitative Economics also worked on the forecast and attended the presentation.