Detroit Regional Chamber > Chamber > 2024 State of the Region Economic Performance and Future Challenges

2024 State of the Region Economic Performance and Future Challenges

February 29, 2024

Top Takeaways

  • Despite resilient economic data points like growing GDP and unemployment numbers, Michigan voters continue to have negative views of the nation’s economic performance. Michigan ranks poorly in population growth, median household income, and educational attainment, posing challenges to its future prosperity and competitiveness.
  • Michigan must use agreed-upon facts, not opinions, to inform long-term decision-making, especially in areas like next-generation mobility.

Michigan’s economic performance has shown resilience and growth despite challenges, but the challenges are still of concern, according to Sandy K. Baruah, the Detroit Regional Chamber’s President and Chief Executive Officer, during the 10th annual State of the Region event. He highlighted the report’s three key themes: the economic perception disconnect, Michigan’s population challenge, and electrification’s role in the state’s future economic vitality.

The Disconnect Continues

Baruah started by discussing the fundamental economic data points, including the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) at 5% and Michigan lagging at about 2%. Despite this, the state’s economy showed surprising resilience. Job postings are returning to pre-COVID-19 levels, wage growth is higher than before the pandemic, and unemployment numbers have been around 4% throughout 2023.

Michigan’s strong unemployment numbers are backed up by voters’ perceptions of the labor market, Baruah continued. In the Chamber’s December 2023 Michigan Voter Poll, 61% of respondents say they are doing better or the same economically as before the pandemic. Yet, 69% of those same respondents think the economy is weakening, and 45% believe inflation will get worse in the next year.

“This is a great example of ‘I’m doing fine; the rest of you are screwed,’” he said. “We are seeing these high prices as a real driver of people’s perceptions of the economy. [But] people are paying more because they’re spending more.”

Michigan’s House is on Fire

Michigan’s population challenge is another important issue. According to the 2024 State of the Region report, Michigan ranks 49th in population growth, 37th in median household income, 35th in educational attainment, and 39th in labor force participation. The Detroit Region is about 60% of Michigan’s overall population, and Baruah said the state cannot grow if the Region does not grow.

“[Michigan’s] house is on fire, and it has been on fire now for 40 or 50 years,” Baruah said after explaining his role in the Growing Michigan Together Council. “And this is not going to get fixed overnight.”

The state’s prosperity is contingent on reversing its declining population trends.

No Matter What, the Future Will Be Electrified

Finally, Baruah discussed the role electrification and electric vehicles (EVs) will play in Michigan’s future economic vitality. He said with every nation on the planet scrambling for “some piece of the automotive supply chain pie,” the state must fight for its footprint in mobility, regardless of personal opinions, because sales are still growing, and today’s products will not look like tomorrow’s.

“If you look at the trajectory of growth in vehicles, do we want to make it a political issue or a business issue?” he asked. “If we want to be part of the future of the industry, do we want to be leaders or laggers?”

View the full State of the Region presentation.

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