Points of View

Talent Demand Report Highlight: West Michigan Commuting Patterns

Alex Andrews

Data regarding West Michigan’s 2015 commuting patterns were updated on the U.S. Census Bureau’s OnTheMap online tool in September of 2016. These estimates were obtained from employers, covered by unemployment insurance, and from Census data provided by individuals in order to determine commuting patterns at various geography levels. Commuting patterns serve as an effective method to identify labor sheds, both at the regional and sub-regional levels, which can help employers determine where to channel their recruitment efforts. 


Commuting Beyond West Michigan

In 2015 there were a total of 681,068 individuals employed in West Michigan, regardless of whether they lived among the thirteen counties or not. Of these, only 569,403 both lived and worked within the region, accounting for 83.6 percent of employees in West Michigan. Thus, leaving 111,665 people who lived outside of West Michigan, but made a commute into the region for employment. Of the nine other prosperity regions located throughout the state, only the Upper Peninsula (region 1) boasted a higher proportion of its employees also living within the region — with 88.4 percent of employees also serving as residents — when compared to West Michigan.

Conversely, a total of 693,944 individuals were considered residents of West Michigan in 2015. Approximately 17.9 percent, or 124,541 residents, were employed beyond the boundaries of the region and made a commute out of West Michigan for work. As such, nearly 82.1 percent of West Michigan residents both lived and worked within the region as of 2015. Compared to the nine other prosperity regions located throughout the state, West Michigan ranks third for this metric. The top prosperity region, with the smallest proportion of residents commuting out of the region for employment, was the Detroit Metro area (Region 10) at 13.8 percent for this measure. Region 1 — the Upper Peninsula — trailed the top spot with 17.0 percent of residents commuting beyond the boundaries of the region for work, slightly below that of West Michigan. 


Commuting Within West Michigan

In terms of commuting patterns across the region, three of West Michigan’s largest metro areas — the Cities of Grand Rapids, Holland, and Muskegon — each saw very different trends emerge in 2015. 

With nearly a quarter of the employed population also living within the city’s boundaries, the City of Grand Rapids boasted the largest share of employees also serving as residents when compared to the region’s other large metro areas — at 23.8 percent, with 31,048 residential employees of the city’s 130,297 total employees. As such, approximately 76.2 percent of those employed in Grand Rapids commuted from their place of residence beyond the city’s limits, leaving 99,249 individuals who commuted into Grand Rapids for work in 2015. The city’s 2015 residential population of 87,654 employed individuals consisted of 35.4 percent who remained within the city for work (31,048 residential employees), while nearly 65 percent of those living in Grand Rapids at this time were employed somewhere outside of the city. The top destinations for commuters who lived in Grand Rapids during this period were Kentwood, Wyoming, Walker, and Forest Hills.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there were 158,705 individuals employed in the City of Holland in 2015. The city’s workers predominately lived outside of the city, with over three-quarters (76.5 percent) of the employed population commuting into Holland for work — leaving 23.5 percent of those employed in the city who also lived there. The city’s residential population consisted of 103,445 employed individuals, yet only 37,276 residents (36.0 percent) remained within the city’s limits during their commute to work. Thus, 64 percent of those living in Holland (66,169 residents) travelled beyond the boundaries of the city during their commute to work in 2015. The top destinations for residents commuting out of Holland were Grand Rapids, Kentwood, Wyoming, and Walker.

Compared to Grand Rapids or Holland, the City of Muskegon saw the lowest proportion of its employed population also living in the city during 2015 — accounting for 2,685 residents (14.0 percent) of the city’s 19,116 total employees. Of the 12,910 individuals who lived in the City of Muskegon during 2015, there were just 2,685 residents (20.8 percent) who remained within the city for employment. Therefore, 79.2 percent of Muskegon residents (10,225 individuals) were employed outside of the city and made a regular commute beyond the city’s limits for work. The top destinations for these commuters were Norton Shores, Grand Rapids, Grand Haven, and Roosevelt Park.


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