West Michigan economy growing modestly: GVSU researcher

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

A monthly survey conducted by a Grand Valley researcher indicates that area manufacturers and businesses are seeing signs of modest growth in the West Michigan economy. 

Brian Long, director of supply management research at the Seidman College of Business, said several metrics in his report rose in March and hinted at a recession-free 2024, though some responses from surveyed purchasing managers reflect caution.

“With this month's positive numbers, it seems obvious that barring some kind of a Black Swan event that a recession is not just around the corner, but now improbable for the rest of 2024,” Long said. 

“However, we have built up a few cautionary bubbles, and we've averaged a post-war recession about every six years, and so we are not immune to recessions, and we need to keep a close watch on 2025 and beyond.”

Several key indices from Long’s report trended upward in March. The report’s new orders index, a measurement of a company’s business improvement, rose seven points last month. The production index, a measure of a company’s output, climbed 12 points.

The largest gain came from Long’s employment index, which climbed 16 points from February, suggesting area firms are increasing their staffing levels. 

“Last month's survey came in flat, but this month's numbers came in considerably more positive, and furthermore, the purchasing manager surveys at the national level are also positive,” Long said. 

“Our survey of employment has been modestly negative for the last six months, so it was good to see our employment index bounce back to positive in our most recent report.”

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

  • New orders index (business improvement): +10 vs. +3 in February
  • Production index (output): +2 vs. -10 in February
  • Employment index: +9 vs. -7 in February
  • Lead times index: -2 vs. -5 in February

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


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