Report Finds Lagging Recovery


    GRAND RAPIDS — The economic recovery has again been postponed. Putting off a recovery until the second half of the year now looks to be the economic plan for the Grand Rapids area.

    The Right Place Program has found that possible war with Iraq is weighing heavily on both businesses and consumers and with fourth quarter Gross Domestic Product being a very weak 0.7 percent, mainly on weaker auto sales, but also slower inventory accumulation and weaker net exports, confidence is not high.

    Some economists see a possible recovery during the second half of the year, helped by continued low interest rates, expected passage of a fiscal stimulus package, and a possible lessening of global tensions.

    The local economy now is in a slight decline, however. Right Place reported that unemployment rose from 5.7 percent in November to 5.9 percent in December for the Grand Rapids Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA). Approximately 36,600 out of the 623,500 civilian labor force in the Grand Rapids-Muskegon-Holland MSA were without jobs.

    Other areas also showed an increase in unemployment. The city of Grand Rapids was up from 7.6 percent in November to 7.9 percent in December; Kent County rose from 5.5 percent in November to 5.6 percent in December; Michigan went up from 5.3 percent in November to 5.6 percent in December; and the United States stayed even at 5.7 percent from month to month.

    Right Place also indicated long-term good news was apparent. From 1990 to 2002, wage and salary employment figures in the four-county MSA grew from 450,300 to 583,500. That’s a 29.6 percent increase.

    And from November to December employment also grew, by minuscule amounts, in some specific industrial sectors, including stone, clay, glass & concrete, which grew by 100; transportation equipment was up 200; chemicals and allied products was up 100; rubber and plastics was up 400; wholesale trade was up 100; retail trade was up 600; and health services was up 200.    

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