The State of Michigan no longer is on the steep downward slide that began when the national financial crisis hit in fall 2008, although it's a long way from climbing back to the level of economic activity it saw as recently as five years ago. Auto sales are rising after dropping to their lowest level in 50 years, and the three domestic automakers could see their share of the U.S. market rise this year after years of decline, University of Michigan economist George Fulton said.
Michigan's unemployment rate still leads the nation after peaking at 14.5 percent in December, ending a year in which 285,600 jobs disappeared, including close to a fifth of the auto jobs present in 2007. Job losses so far this year have been far fewer, allowing unemployment to ease down to 14 percent.
The Michigan Association of Homebuilders announced in April that it was seeing a modest recovery and expects permits to build single-family homes will be up 35 percent through October compared to a year ago.
Among existing homes, houses that used to get no interest from buyers now are getting several offers. The competition for homes costing $600,000 or less is growing.
Other business owners also are becoming cautiously optimistic, said Rich Studley, Michigan Chamber of Commerce president and CEO.
Starting about two months ago, "All across the state people were coming up with a smile on their face saying, 'I think we've hit the bottom,'" he said. "What they were saying was, 'We've stopped losing money, we're going to survive, we're confident that the worst is behind us.'"
Many residents are still discouraged about Michigan's economic future, however. A full quarter of the 600 likely voters questioned in a recent poll said they think Michigan's economy will get worse. Among the 73 percent who think the economy has bottomed out, only 35 percent think it's starting to improve, while the rest feel it isn't getting any better.
The May 22-26 poll was conducted by Lansing-based EPIC-MRA for the Detroit Free Press and television stations WXYZ, WOOD, WJRT and WILX. The margin of sampling error was plus or minus 4 percentage points.
Shaky Michigan economy slowly starting to recover
By KATHY BARKS HOFFMAN (AP)
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