Positive signs for West Michigan economy amid slumping numbers: GVSU researcher

Exterior photo of Seidman College of Business
Image credit - Amanda Pitts

A monthly economic report from a Grand Valley researcher shows that while the West Michigan economy remains modestly negative, it has not slumped enough to slide into a recession. 

Brian Long, director of supply management research at GVSU’s Seidman College of Business, said his December survey of local businesses and manufacturers showed a continued downward trend in key indices like new orders and production. 

But even with negative statistics, Long said 2023 had several positive notes to guide the local economy into the new year. 

“For instance, most of the bottlenecks in our supply chains have finally been cleared,” Long said. “Most employers are having less trouble filling open positions, the UAW strike is now history and most commodity prices have returned to normal. Not a bad way to start the new year.”

Across the state, unemployment ticked up to 4.3%, and yet that trend has not reached West Michigan, Long said. 

“The current unemployment rate in Ottawa County is 2.5%, so the unemployment rate in all of the counties on the west side of Michigan is still far below that 4.3% state average,” Long said. 

Long added that there are also positive signs from two indices which measure consumer confidence and sentiment. December reports from The Conference Board and University of Michigan reflect strong consumer confidence in the U.S. economy and their state of finances. 

“Both of these indices posted nice gains this past month,” Long said. “Locally, our long-term business outlook index, which queries the perception in the industrial market of where we will be over the next three to five years, upticked to plus-44 which is now a four-year high.”

Here’s a look at the key index results from December’s survey of West Michigan businesses:

  • New orders index (business improvement): -14 vs. -10 in November
  • Production index (output): -11 vs. -4 in November
  • Employment index: -5 vs. -5 in November
  • Lead times index: -9 vs. -8 in November

More information about the survey and an archive of past surveys are available on the Seidman College of Business website .


Sign up and receive the latest Grand Valley headlines delivered to your email inbox each morning.