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Economists say county economy to stay positive

By Lisa Brody


According to University of Michigan economists, Oakland County's economy is predicted to return to normal this year and has a "solidly positive outlook" over the next few years.


A three-year economic outlook for Oakland County was presented on Monday, May 8, at Oakland University, where county executive Dave Coulter also presented the Oakland80 report, which dives into post-secondary attainment. 


In the three-year outlook for the county by U-M economists Dr. Gabe Ehrich and Donald Grimes, they noted the national economy has not exempted southeast Michigan. While there has been growth in 2022, notably in the third quarter, “the county's jobs recovery has lagged Michigan’s as a whole. Oakland had recovered only 82 percent of the jobs it lost at the start of the pandemic by the third quarter of 2022, while Michigan had recovered 90 percent...We are optimistic that 2023 will feature a return to normalcy in Oakland County’s economy despite a slowdown in the national economy. We project the county to add 9,700 payroll jobs this year, a growth rate of 1.4 percent.”


The economists anticipate growth to be widespread across industries, noting that a remaining backlog of demand in the automotive and construction industries will likely cushion local unemployment against a possible mild recession. “Our forecast takes Oakland County’s payroll jobs count back to its pre-pandemic level in the second quarter of 2025 and to 1.2 percent higher by the end of the year.”


Oakland County's strengths – which include low child poverty, high educational attainment, a high share of residents employed in professional and managerial occupations, and a high median income – are among the economists' reasons for their optimism for the county's future.


However, they noted there are discrepancies and uneven economic prosperity within the county, with Birmingham, Bloomfield Hills, and Bloomfield Township maintaining stronger average household income compared to other municipalities, notably Pontiac and Waterford.


In the Oakland80 report, titled “The Road to Economic Success in Oakland County,” Coulter noted, “Oakland County is fortunate to be an economic leader in Michigan with the highest personal income per capita and second highest post-secondary educational attainment rate in the state. We want to build on and preserve this advantage for the future of our residents and ensure that all of our residents have the educational opportunities they deserve.”


He said the goal of Oakland80 is to work towards the ambitious goal of having 80 percent ofadult residents of the county with a post-secondary degree or certified training certificate by 2030. Working with the leaders of Oakland Community College, Oakland Schools and Oakland University, in partnership with Gesher Human Services the county by using American Rescue Plan (ARP) dollars, developed a team of career and education navigators embedded throughout the county to help adults, “not only design their own educational pathways that satisfies both their interests and the needs in the local workforce but achieve their dreams.”


Substantially fewer Oakland County residents of color have post-secondary attainment. Only 42 percent of black residents and 47 percent of Latino/Latina residents have a college degree or certificate. Geography also makes a difference in post-secondary attainment. Residents in the Pontiac/Waterford area have a post-secondary attainment rate of 38 percent, and residents in west Oakland County have a below county average attainment rate of 53 percent while the Farmington/Southfield area is at 58 percent. The areas with the highest post-secondary attainment rates in the county are Birmingham, Bloomfield, Troy, and Rochester at 76 percent.


ARP funds are also being used help with ancillary costs like transportation, books and childcare. “We rely on the strength of existing programs so that services aren’t duplicated, and precious resources can be dedicated to where they are needed most,” Coulter said.

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