Oakland’s Jobless Rate Expected to Fall Below U.S. Average

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This year unemployment in Oakland County will fall below the national average for the first time since 2003, according to an economic forecast released today. The county is projected to add nearly 43,000 jobs through 2016, say University of Michigan economists.

The county’s unemployment rate, which stood at 8.1 percent in 2013, is expected to drop to 6.4 percent in 2014. The jobless rate for the U.S. stood at 6.7 in March, according to the U.S. Bureau of Statistics.

“We see the continuation of a healthy recovery through 2016, extending its span to seven years, but with the pace of growth moderating a little more this year and accelerating again in the following two years,” says George Fulton of the U-M Institute for Research on Labor, Employment, and the Economy. “Oakland’s recovery is supported by an expanding U.S. economy, a recovering local housing sector, and increasing vehicle sales, with the Detroit’s Big Three fully participating.

“All of this is backed by the county’s strong economic fundamentals and forward-looking policy initiatives.”

According to the 29th annual U-M forecast of Oakland County’s economy, high-wage, white-collar professional services added 21,500 new jobs from 2009 to 2013 and will continue to lead the county’s job growth over the next three years with the addition of 11,000 new jobs, mainly in engineering services, testing labs, and company management in the auto industry.

“All of them are forecast to add many more jobs than the blue-collar factory-based part of the auto industry,” Fulton says. “Indeed, Oakland County’s auto industry is the best example of how the industry is converting from a factory-based industry to an office-based enterprise.”

Other industries that will see growth include the health care sector (6,300 jobs); leisure and hospitality (3,800 jobs); administrative support and waste management (3,400 jobs); finance, insurance, and real estate (2,800 jobs); and wholesale and retail trade (both at about 2,200 jobs).

In the high-wage goods-producing sector, the forecast predicts jobs gains of 5,200 over the next three years — split evenly between manufacturing and construction. Automotive manufacturing will add only about 700 jobs, accounting for less than 3 percent of all jobs in Oakland County.

“Over the next three years, the manufacturing sector in Oakland County contributes only one out of every 17 jobs added in the county over this period,” says Don Grimes, who co-authored the forecast. “By 2016, the manufacturing sector accounts for less than 9 percent of the jobs in the county. We expect that its share will continue to slip.”

Based on the real and projected job gains from 2010 through 2016, Oakland will have replenished 73 percent of the jobs lost from summer 2000 to 2009.

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