Current business trends: Stronger growth returns

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The greater Grand Rapids industrial economy experienced stronger growth in April, according to the results of a monthly survey compiled by Brian G. Long, director of Supply Management Research in the Seidman College of Business at Grand Valley State University.

The survey results are based on data collected during the last two weeks of April.

The survey’s index of business improvement, called new orders, bounced to +40, up from +27. The production index posted a more modest gain, and rose to +28 from +23. The employment index remained in double digit growth but backtracked to +13 from +19. The index of purchases was unchanged at +19.

“Our stronger statistics mean that there are no segments that are doing poorly, although there are exceptions within each group,” said Long. “Automotive parts suppliers remain strong, although a couple firms backtracked because of the particular components they were making. The integrated office furniture companies turned in a stronger performance, and smaller firms are also doing well.”

Long said the employment numbers for West Michigan continue to be better than the rest of the state. Among the unemployment rates in the 83 Michigan counties, Kent County reported the second lowest in unemployment in the state in April, followed by Ottawa County at number three. Kalamazoo County eased to fifth place. Between February and March, Long said almost all of the counties in West Michigan posted minor improvements in unemployment.

The Institute for Supply Management survey is a monthly survey of business conditions that includes 45 purchasing managers in the greater Grand Rapids area and 25 in Kalamazoo. The respondents are from the region’s major industrial manufacturers, distributors and industrial service organizations. It is patterned after a nationwide survey conducted by the Institute for Supply Management. Each month, the respondents are asked to rate eight factors as “same,” “up” or “down.” An expanded version of this report and details of the methodology used to compile it are available at www.gvsu.edu/scblogistics.

For more information, contact Brian Long at (269) 323-2359.

DOWNLOADABLE AUDIO

* Long said the April numbers are the strongest in a couple years (audio).

* Long said the automotive and office furniture industries continue to do well (audio).

* Long said business optimism is better (audio).

* Long said he doesn't expect the strong growth to continue (audio).