Friday, April 02, 2010

Recovery in Progress: More Good Economic News For Michigan

Gotta love those positive indexes. The Comerica Michigan Economic Activity Index surged in January. The Michigan Retail Index for February showed the highest level of sales activity since August of 2007. The Southeast Michigan Purchasing Managers Index jumped 27% from January to February.

Today we can add another index to the list: The State Coincident Index from the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia shows that Michigan led the nation in economic activity for their February 2010 report. The index is based on a three month trend. Check out the chart. Click on it for a bigger view. Go ahead. It's real pretty.

While most of the nation has either decreased (which is disturbing) or remained unchanged, Michigan has shown the greatest economic activity on leading indicators. It works like this:

The coincident indexes combine four state-level indicators to summarize current economic conditions in a single statistic. The four state-level variables in each coincident index are nonfarm payroll employment, average hours worked in manufacturing, the unemployment rate, and wage and salary disbursements deflated by the consumer price index (U.S. city average). The trend for each state’s index is set to the trend of its gross domestic product (GDP), so long-term growth in the state’s index matches long-term growth in its GDP.

Get it? Yeah, me neither, but I'll take their word for it. Sure is nice to see Michigan singled out as an economic leader for a change.

Another bit of good news that didn't get a lot of media attention: No WARN layoff notices were filed for March. WARN notices are issued when a major employer intends on action, such as a plant closure or mass layoff, that affects 50 or more employees.

Barring any action this afternoon, March will be the first month in about two years where not a single major Michigan employer notified the state of a mass layoff or plant closing, under the federal Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act.

Chong-Anna Canfora, director of the rapid response division of the Michigan Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth, said early Wednesday afternoon no new WARN Act notices had been filed this month, compared with 13 notices for a combined 1,223 lost jobs in January and February.

The federal act requires companies with more than 100 employees to file notice with state and local governments 60 days in advance of plant or building closures or layoffs that affect more than 50 employees.

“I hope it’s a small indicator (of recovery), or a hopeful patch of green,” Canfora said. “But we understand it’s not reflective of the total picture, since the law only covers larger private employers and we do not receive notices of job trends among other, small businesses.”

Yes, but the big fish help feed the smaller fish, and the slowdown in notices compared to last year is stunning. For example, for January and February of 2009, we had 37 such notices. This year, 13. For March, we had 21 in 2009; this year, 0. Our jobless rate is slowly dropping, and hopefully that is an indication that the smaller businesses are hanging in there as well.

Good deal. It will take longer for increased hiring and tax revenue numbers to catch up, of course - but most indicators are now pointing to the fact that we have stopped the bleeding, and we are on our way.

But it does beg the question: If we are showing economic recovery here in Michigan, just what will the Republicans campaign on in the fall?