Comerica Inc. projects continued strong job growth and lower unemployment through this year and next across Western Michigan.
The Grand Rapids area alone added 20,000 jobs during 2015, driving the unemployment rate down to a “very tight” 2.8 percent locally “as job creation outpaces labor force growth in the area,” according to a new economic briefing.
The report covers a broad region that includes Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo, Battle Creek, Jackson and Lansing.
Comerica projects the broader region’s unemployment rate will decline from 4.1 percent for 2015 to 3.7 percent in 2016, and to 3.4 percent in 2017, even as easing exports and the strong dollar “dampen the area’s manufacturing-based economy.”
The continued job growth, however, will squeeze the labor market further, Comerica economists wrote in their briefing.
“Low cost-of-living makes the area appealing for relocations, however, low labor force growth will act as a constraint, making employees harder to find,” according to the briefing.
Comerica also project continued growth in housing starts and population gains for the region.