Study: Lack of available workers begins to hit manufacturing output

By John Wiegand, for MiBiz

Oct 30, 2017

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While countless manufacturers throughout West Michigan have lamented the lack of available talent, evidence shows the workforce constraint has finally affected the industry’s ability to grow.

That’s according to Paul Isely, an economist and associate dean at Grand Valley State University’s Seidman College of Business, who notes the limited pool of talent in the region has shown up in the productivity data for manufacturing. While sales for West Michigan manufacturers are still growing, the rate of expansion has slowed compared to past years, particularly as companies struggle to find the necessary talent.

“We certainly see manufacturing slowing down because they’re sort of out of labor, so it’s hard to grow when you don’t have a lot of workers,” Isely said.

Growth among West Michigan’s manufacturing economy has waned in recent years.

In 2016, the gross domestic product (GDP) attributed to manufacturing in the Grand Rapids-Wyoming metropolitan statistical area reached $14.7 billion, a 2-percent increase compared to the previous year, according to the latest data available from the Bureau of Economic Analysis. By contrast, the manufacturing GDP expanded at a pace of 6.6 percent in 2015 in the Grand Rapids metro area, according to the data.

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