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Unemployment down, but workers making less money in Grand Rapids

Sheila Steele
Creative Commons

The unemployment rate in Grand Rapids is back where it was before the Great Recession.

But workers in Michigan’s second-largest labor market are making less money. Grand Rapids had the second-worst earnings decline of the top-100 labor markets in the country since 2001, down 6.6%. Only Detroit was worse at 7.2%.

Joshua Wright is a data analyst at Economic Modeling Specialists. He says a lot of market analysts have been watching what’s happening in Grand Rapids.

“It’s almost like a test case for the national economy or for a traditional manufacturing hub. It’s growing, manufacturing is coming back, but there’s this big rise in temp workers and earnings are declining. So it’s pretty fascinating,” Wright said.

Temporary work – especially in manufacturing – is booming in Grand Rapids. The rise of temporary employment is twice the national average. But Wright says those workers have seen even more dramatic cuts in their paychecks, taking home 10% percent less now than they did in 2009.

Lindsey Smith is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently leading the station's Amplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Public's Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.