GRAND RAPIDS – While 2019 got off to a slow start in January, February’s report for the West Michigan economy shows a return to a pattern of slow growth that has been reported for nearly 10 years, a report released Friday contends.

Brian G. Long, director of Supply Management Research in Grand Valley State University’s Seidman College of Business, surveyed local business leaders and his findings below are based on data collected during the last two weeks of February.

The survey’s index of business improvement (new orders) bounced back to +16 from -4. In a similar move, the production index rose to +16 from +4. The index of purchases also bounced to +16 from +3, and the employment index rose to +17 from +14.

Long said several business leaders continue to voice concerns over the still unresolved tariff war with China, and others are cautious about the potential decline in auto sales. 

“Although several of our local auto parts producers remain modestly pessimistic about the prospects for 2019, we have yet to see any significant weakening in our local firms,” said Long. “Overall, the mood remains watchfully optimistic.” 

Long said business confidence rebounded in February, after posting some near-record lows in January.

He said despite the weakness in last month’s survey, the employment index continues to remain double-digit positive.

“Employers are still complaining that they cannot find enough qualified workers,” he said.