OU Report: Business Experts ‘Cautiously Optimistic’ on Economy

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tMetro Detroit economists and business owners are cautiously optimistic about the economic outlook for southeastern Michigan, which included improvements in private-sector employment, trends in unemployment, and income through the end of next year, says a recent report by Oakland University in Rochester Hills.

t“Rebounding U.S. light vehicle sales should help our area continue on a path of slow, but steady improvement,” says Jonathan Silberman, an economics professor who, along with associate economics professor Ronald Tracy, compiled the survey. The report surveyed nearly 500 economists, business executives, and consumers in Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Livingston, Lapeer, and St. Clair counties.

t“We will have to keep an eye on the region's per-capita income,” Tracy says. “If it continues to grow, it's a good indicator that we are moving in the right direction."

tTracy says consumer sentiment appears to be stuck in neutral, with many people unsure about the economic prospects in the region. The trend has been consistent over the past four quarters of data collection and analysis.

tBoth experts explain that consumer views usually lag behind those of economists and business owners. However, since consumers impact such a large part of the economy, their sentiment and spending can slow or accelerate any economic change.

tAll groups surveyed were uncertain about whether or not replacing the state’s gas tax with a user fee — based on the distance a person drives in Michigan, with higher rates for heavy vehicles that cause more damage to roadways — would be an efficient way to finance the state’s transportation infrastructure.

tWhile five of eight economic experts agreed with the plan, consumers were split with 43 percent in favor, 30 percent against, and 25 percent unsure. Business executives were also split with 44 percent in favor and 49 percent against the idea.

tTo read the complete business confidence report, click here. For the expert panel report, click here.

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