Strong indicators show 'great start' in 2023 for area's economy, according to expert

Key manufacturing indicators in West Michigan rose sharply in January, a sign that the area's economy is rebounding, according to a Grand Valley economic expert.

Brian Long, director of supply management research at the Seidman College of Business, said another takeaway from his monthly survey of manufacturers and distributors is that layoffs continue to be minimal.

"Despite ongoing recession fears, the employment situation in West Michigan remains surprisingly strong," Long said, noting only 5 percent of survey respondents reported layoffs for December. 

L. William Seidman Center from a drone photo in the sunrise
Brian Long, director of supply management research at the Seidman College of Business, said indicators show a great start to 2023 for area businesses.
Image credit - Amanda Pitts

The new orders and production indices rose in January. Long said new business is coming to West Michigan automotive parts producers and aerospace subcontractors. The new orders (business improvement) index rose to +18, over -24 in December. The production index was +21, over -21 in December.

Long said all factors represent a "great start" for West Michigan businesses in 2023 but he also issued a caution. 

"Even though the direction of the economy for the rest of 2023 is still unclear, we can still expect our automotive parts producers to offset much of the weakness in other industries, especially office furniture," he said. "That said, our survey numbers may still bounce around until the threat of a recession or an actual recession has passed."

Other statistics from Long's report are below:

  • Employment: January +13, December +14
  • Purchases: January +11, December -19
  • Lead Times from Suppliers: January -16, December -14

The West Michigan survey is patterned after a nationwide survey conducted by the Institute for Supply Management. Each month, the respondents are asked to rate eight factors as "same," "up" or "down."


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