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GVSU economist: Slower growth, sagging confidence

  • A picture of the outside of the L. William Seidman Center on the Pew Grand Rapids Campus.

Posted on June 07, 2019

The West Michigan economy is slowing with evidence of a flat growth pattern, said Brian G. Long, director of Supply Management Research in Grand Valley State University's Seidman College of Business.

Long surveyed local business leaders and his findings below are based on data collected during the last two weeks of May. View the full report here.

The survey's index of business improvement (new orders) flattened to +3, down from +13. The production index held steady at +11, while the index of purchases dropped sharply to -2 from +16. The employment index rose to +15 from +4.

"The sharp drop in our index of purchases indicates many firms are putting expansion plans on hold and beginning to sandbag operations in the event that the economy continues to flatten," said Long.

He said the local economic slowdown is related to the trade war with China and the possibility of tariffs on Mexican imports.

"The economic impact and direction of the ongoing multi-national tariff wars virtually defies prediction," said Long. "What we do know is that the tariffs are starting to raise prices for a wide variety of commodities and pinch profitably for an increasing number of firms. Business planners hate uncertainty, and not knowing what new commodities might be impacted and what the resulting delivered prices might be causes future hiring or expansion plans to be put on hold."

The Institute for Supply Management survey is a monthly survey of business conditions that includes 45 purchasing managers in the greater Grand Rapids area and 25 in Kalamazoo. The respondents are from the region's major industrial manufacturers, distributors and industrial service organizations. It 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."

For more information, contact Brian Long at (269) 870-0428.