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It's not all bad news in the nation's so-called Rust Belt. Butler sees a rosier economic climate in Southeast Michigan, which was hit hard by the U.S. industrial decline of the 1990s and the more recent Great Recession. Since then, he says, the region has grown steadily, with its economy "modestly improving."
The Big Three automakers have had their ups and downs, although they are seeing gains in market share and are hiring throughout Michigan. General Motors, Ford and Chrysler have been adding plants and assembly operations around the country, attracted to states that offer tax incentives for locating there.
Drawing on the Regional Purchasing Managers' Index for Southeast Michigan, Wayne State conducts a regular survey of local economic activity. It polls companies about the comparative levels of orders and inventory, in addition to trends in commodity pricing. The survey has become "the major benchmark for assessing economic activity in the region," Butler says.
The results revealed a 22-month improvement in various categories, broken by a decline last December. But that drop was only in comparison to the prior month, Butler notes, adding that the survey generates a three-month moving average in order to dramatize current economic trends in the region.
The regional index also serves as a leading indicator of economic activity, telling community and business leaders what to expect in the coming months. Assuming the news is positive, "it definitely gives you a level of confidence and optimism," Butler says.
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Keywords: supply chain, international trade, global logistics, U.S. auto industry, Rust Belt economy
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