For Washtenaw, a rosy outlook

Richard Wallace (left) and Dr. George Fulton speak at the Washtenaw Economic Club luncheon. Photo by Lynn Monson

Richard Wallace (left) and Dr. George Fulton speak at the 31st annual Washtenaw Economic Club Luncheon. Photo by Lynn Monson

For the past 31 years, Dr. George A. Fulton, research professor at the University of Michigan’s Institute for Research on Labor, Employment and the Economy and director of the Center for Labor Market Research, has peered into Washtenaw County’s economic future.

More often than not, he’s been right on the money, pun intended, and this year was no exception. For the 250 local business executives attending the Washtenaw Economic Club’s 31st annual Economic Forecast luncheon at Washtenaw Community College, it was all good news. Fulton told the crowd that the county is approaching full employment.

“The upward trend in Washtenaw County will continue over the next three years,” Fulton said.

Washtenaw County can expect 10,594 new jobs by 2018 and the unemployment rate is forecasted at 2.5 percent, which would be the lowest since 2000, according to Fulton. Also, in the next three years, Washtenaw County is expected to re-gain 73 percent of the jobs that were lost during the Great Recession at the end of the last decade.

Other highlights include:

• Growth in U.S. GDP forecasted at 2.3 percent (2016), 2.8 percent (2017), and 2.5 percent (2018)
• U.S. Light Vehicle Sales for the Detroit Big Three forecasted at 44.2 percent (2016) of total sales and 44.5 percent (2017-18)
• Average Annual Change in Real Wage in Washtenaw County will be 2 percent, with the higher education service industries at 2.1 percent and blue collar at 1.3 percent over the next three years.
• CPI Inflation Rate for the Detroit region to increase from 1.1 percent in 2016 to 2.3 percent in 2017 to 2.4 percent in 2018.

Fulton was joined by Richard Wallace, director of the Center for Automotive Research’s Transportation Systems Analysis group, who shared his insight into autonomous vehicles and the role they will play in the economy.

After playing a video that showed examples of autonomous vehicles, Wallace noted that this sophisticated technology is already here but that it will take some time before most vehicles on the road would be self-driving. “But it’s coming,” he said. “Apple is working on it now.”

“To move forward with this technology, we need a highly skilled and highly trained workforce,” Wallace said.

WCC, along with The Ann Arbor News (MLive), Bank of Ann Arbor, International Transactions Clinic, and Old National Bank, sponsored the event.

The college hosts four Washtenaw Economic Club luncheons throughout the year.

For more information about the Washtenaw Economic Club and upcoming events, visit wec.wccnet.edu.

This story originally appeared in the April 2016 issue of On the Record.

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