Auto sales pushed Michigan’s (STOMI1:US) economy in January to its highest level in six years, according to Comerica Bank’s monthly economic activity index.
Michigan’s index rose to 98 from December’s 91, the best improvement among the five states Dallas-based Comerica monitors, said chief economist Robert Dye. The others are California, Texas, Florida and Arizona.
Car sales may continue to fuel the upswing. A “huge” pent-up demand for new vehicles pushed February sales to a level that implies an annual rate of 15.1 million vehicles, Dye said. That’s up from 13.5 million in December.
Michigan’s February unemployment rate dropped to 8.8 percent, the first time it’s fallen been below 9 percent since September 2008, Dye said. The U.S. unemployment rate in February was 8.3 percent.
He said manufacturing, led by the auto industry, is fueling a national recovery.
“We’re starting to see an economy that’s moving past the faltering recovery we’ve had the last couple years,” Dye said in a telephone interview from Dallas. “I hope by the end of 2012 there will be a strong consensus that we’re in a self- sustaining economic expansion.”
Michigan added 62,000 jobs since February 2011, a 1.5 percent increase, according to the state Department of Technology, Management and Budget.
It showed the second-best economic recovery among states, behind North Dakota, by the third quarter of 2011, according to the Bloomberg Economic Evaluation of States index.
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