in one current columnI argued that Michigan needs to shift from a business-focused economic development strategy to one focused on expanding its workforce.
The reason is pretty simple. Michigan, like other northern states, is aging and running out of workers.
Deaths exceed births in the state in 2020 and 2021, according to the latest data from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. These were the first years in more than a century in which the number of deaths exceeded births.
Michigan’s population is fallen in the past two years to just over 10 million, about the same number of people live in the state 20 years ago. Michigan was the 13th oldest state in the country in 2021 with a median age of 39.7 years.
And far too many working-age Michiganders have left the workforce for reasons ranging from a lack of childcare to workers taking early retirement during the COVID pandemic and not returning.
Michigan’s labor force percentage in November was 59.9% 40th the lowest in the country. This rate is the percentage of working-age adults who are employed or looking for work.
Meanwhile, the state’s employers are struggling to find enough workers, from restaurant waiters to automotive engineers.
There were almost 250,000 job advertisements online booked by employers in Michigan last October, about 100,000 more than in January 2000, a few months before the COVID pandemic hit the state.
“Michigan’s economic future faces a major hurdle in the form of a slowly growing and aging population,” wrote University of Michigan economists Gabriel Ehrlich, Jacob Burton, Donald Grimes and Michael McWilliams in their November economic forecast.
But what does a comprehensive human resources and talent-centric economic development strategy look like?
It begins, unsurprisingly, with the improvement of the state’s backward education system. A disturbing new study by the Education Trust-Midwest found that Michigan seventh of the worst in the nation for fourth grade reading scores.
The group warned that unless “dramatic, research-backed changes” are made to the state’s public education system, critical reading scores will stagnate by 2030.
Increasing student achievement in Michigan’s K-12 system is even more important than focusing on increasing the state’s graduating population, said Charles Ballard, professor emeritus of economics at Michigan State University.
That’s because there are too many high school seniors who aren’t prepared for college work, especially math, he told me. Math proficiency is particularly important for success in an increasingly technological economy.
Ballard said the school year should be extended by several weeks to help students regain learning lost during COVID. And a high school diploma should keep what it says.
“If there was only one thing I could do, it would be to get to the point where every kid gets a high school diploma and a high school diploma means the kid has a 12thdegree education,” said Ballard, an expert on Michigan’s economy.
More college-ready students could produce additional residents with post-high school skill certificates and college degrees to fill high-paying jobs. Michigan Rank 30tH in the percentage of adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher.
States with a high percentage of residents with at least a bachelor’s degree tend to be more affluent than states with lower educational attainments.
A Recent study The wealthiest states ranked by the Millken Institute last year were Massachusetts, Connecticut, Minnesota, New Hampshire and Utah. All have much higher educational qualifications than Michigan, which ranks 29thth.
Governor Gretchen Whitmer addresses the problem in a variety of ways, including increasing operational support for the state’s 15 public universities and creating college scholarships of $2,750 per year to attend a community college and $5,500 per year to attend a public university.
Michigan doesn’t just need smarter workers; it needs more of them. Various strategies are needed to attract new residents, including measures to increase hospitality, improve the quality of life in communities, and help low-income people improve their economic prospects.
Some of the country’s most dynamic areas focus on transit to connect people with jobs and attract talent. This is an area where Michigan lags behind its competitors, despite boasting that it is “the undisputed global capital of mobility”.
Some of the country’s most dynamic areas focus on transit to connect people with jobs and attract talent. That’s an area where Michigan lags behind its peers.
Voters in booming Austin, Texas elected in 2020 Approve $7 billion (yes, with a “B”) to build more bus and train lines in the city.
Metro Minneapolis, which has one of the best transit systems in the country, aims to become the “Bus Rapid Transit Capital of North America”. Denver, Boston and other talent magnets offer discounts when buying electric bikes.
With the first democratic control of state government in nearly 40 years, Michigan has a unique opportunity to become a much stronger competitor for new residents and workers.
The Democrats are up to the challenge. Democratic legislators introduced themselves on their first day of work a multitude of bills that could make Michigan a livelier, more welcoming state.
These include measures that would strengthen women’s reproductive rights, increase a tax credit to support working families, and include anti-discrimination protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity in the state’s civil rights law.
There is still work to be done, but Democrats’ people-centric focus on boosting the economy is energizing.