Great Lakes Economy Surpasses Japan on Employment Shift

An employment shift to health care and education is powering growth in the Great Lakes region that straddles the U.S.-Canada border.

The eight U.S. states including Michigan and two Canadian provinces had output of $5.8 trillion in 2014, accounting for 30 percent of the combined U.S. and Canadian total and almost a third of jobs, according to BMO Capital Markets. The region’s gross domestic product surpasses that of Japan, Germany and the U.K. and trails only the U.S. and China.

“The economic importance of the region can’t be overstated,” Robert Kavcic, a senior economist at BMO Capital Markets in Toronto, said in a report to be presented Monday at the Great Lakes Economic Forum in Chicago.

The region’s expansion will accelerate this year as cheaper oil boosts consumer spending in states such as Illinois and Indiana, while the weaker Canadian dollar supports the economies of Ontario and Quebec. Ontario will see growth of 2.5 percent this year, topping the national average for the first time in 13 years, according to the report.

Hospitals and universities are driving growth in the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence region once known as the rust belt for its heavy manufacturing. While factory employment is down 19 percent from a decade ago, with a loss of 1.3 million jobs, education and health-care jobs have soared 22 percent over the same period, adding 1.6 million positions.

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