With the auto industry recovering and state unemployment down sharply from a few years ago, Michiganders appear to hold a modestly upbeat outlook on the economy, a new poll shows.
The latest results from an EPIC-MRA poll released to the Free Press and four TV stations found that 33% of state residents reported their personal financial situation was somewhat good or very good, while only 15% said it was somewhat bad or very bad. Another 51% said it was somewhere in the middle.
At the same time, 53% of poll respondents agreed that Michigan's economy had already bottomed out and was starting to improve. Only 17% said they expected the state's economy to decline more in the near future.
The poll of 600 likely voters was taken July 24-31 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4 percentage points.
Those glass-half-full responses may stem from a belief that Michigan's economy has been recovering faster from the Great Recession than the nation's economy as a whole. In response to a poll question, 44% of Michiganders said they believed the state was moving in the right direction, compared with only 31% who said the country was on the right track.
Those responses show many Michiganders now believe what economists have been saying for a time -- that the state has been rebounding faster. The state's unemployment rate dropped from a high of 14.2% in the summer of 2009 to nearly 8% earlier this year, although it has ticked up somewhat lately to 8.6% in June.
Recent news from the automotive front is bolstering the notion of a Michigan recovery. Chrysler reported this week it posted a $436-million profit during the second quarter, a 218% increase over the same quarter last year.
Charles Ballard, a professor of economics at Michigan State University, said the reasons for the more-optimistic outlook boil down to a better employment outlook.
"The biggest (reason) I'm pretty sure is the improvement in the jobs picture," he said Tuesday. "It was crummy for a long time and then it was really awful for a couple of years, and the turnaround started about 2 1/2 years ago in terms of employment. There was one stretch where we had 19 months in a row where the unemployment rate dropped every month in a row. That's good news."
Consumers sense that the state's employers are on surer footing today, he added.
"There's no way to look at the numbers and say this is not an improving economy," he said. "I think it's beginning to sink in."
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