16 Facts About Michigan's Economy That May Surprise You

Delve into the unexpected drivers of Michigan's economic success.
Updated April 11, 2024
Fact checked
The Michigan capitol building

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Michigan's unique geography and history have shaped its economic landscape. Beyond the Great Lakes and its 12th-largest population lies a diverse and thriving economy. 

From auto manufacturing to agriculture, tourism to retail, Michigan's residents have learned to get ahead financially in countless ways. 

Uncover 16 surprising facts that paint a vivid picture of this dynamic state's economic engine.

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Manufacturing is the largest part of Michigan’s GDP

Montri/Adobe engineer explaining work

While retail and other sectors have made recent gains, manufacturing is still responsible for the lion’s share of Michigan’s GDP. It was responsible for $124.1 billion in the last year.

Automotive production is a key part of Michigan’s economy

Rainer/Adobe car production line

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Michigan employs more automotive production workers than any other state at 166,200. This includes employees who manufacture motor vehicles as well as motor vehicle parts.

Michigan doesn’t just make cars

NDABCREATIVITY/Adobe male workers working with chemicals

Auto manufacturing is an important element of Michigan’s economy, but metal machinery, chemicals, and food are also key products that the Great Lakes State produces.

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Two cereal giants originated in Battle Creek

Drobot Dean/Adobe young man eating cereals

Kellogg’s and Post both have their roots in Battle Creek, Michigan. The town is known today as “Cereal City.”

Michigan is the leading producer of asparagus in the U.S.

sparkia/Adobe asparagus in water

The moderate temperatures and sandy soils near the Great Lakes are ideal for growing asparagus. 

According to the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, Michigan growers harvest approximately 26 million pounds of this vegetable annually.

Michigan has a fast-growing workforce

Bartek/Adobe elevator installer and repairer

According to the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity, the state added 124,000 workers between March and October 2023. This made it the fourth state in the nation in labor force growth and first among Midwestern states.

Michigan is home to 17 Fortune 500 companies

Arcansél/Adobe ford logo on blue car

Household names like Ford, General Motors, Whirlpool, Ally Financial, Dow Chemical, and Penske are all headquartered in the Great Lakes State. Six of the 17 companies are in the mobility and automotive manufacturing sector.

Michigan has the world’s largest limestone quarry

Mangojuicy/Adobe limestone quarry

Calcite Quarry near Rogers City is the largest carbonate mine in the world. The rocks are mined and processed to make crushed aggregate, building stone, soil additives, and more.

Michigan has a healthy tourism industry

JadonBester/peopleimages.com/Adobe exploring city with map

While it’s not as big of an economic driver as manufacturing, tourism is responsible for $48.5 billion of spending in Michigan. This is close to pre-pandemic levels. Tourism in Michigan supports 324,200 jobs, according to a report for the Michigan Office of Tourism.

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Trade professions are growing fast

reewungjunerr/Adobe wastewater treatment plant

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity declared May Professional Trades Month to honor those in these fields. 

Michigan is estimated to have over half a million jobs, with 47,000 openings in trade positions by 2028.

7th worst for unemployment

alotofpeople/Adobe fired businessman sitting on street

Unless you don’t count Washington, D.C.; in that case, it’s 6th. Michigan’s unemployment rate is 4.3%. The U.S. overall unemployment rate is 3.7%, so the difference is marked but not massive.

Michigan has seen a boom in the retail industry

VadimGuzhva/Adobe girl going shopping

While we think of automakers in Michigan, the most recent GDP gains were in the retail and information industries. Retail grew a whopping 23% in Q3 2023, followed closely by information at 22%.

Michigan is the third-highest producer of Christmas trees

sparkia/Adobe family cutting christmas tree

According to an article from the Lansing Journal, the Great Lakes State is responsible for growing over 1.55 million Christmas trees. 

Popular varieties include the Scotch pine, white pine, blue spruce, and more. These festive trees are shipped to families across the country for holiday celebrations.

Two major pizza chains were founded in Michigan

LIGHTFIELD STUDIOS/Adobe serving margherita pizza on table

If you love Domino’s or Little Caesars pizza, you have Michigan to thank. Mike and Marian Ilitch started Little Caesars in Garden City in 1959. 

A year later, brothers Tom and James Monaghan bought a pizzeria for $900 in Ypsilanti that would become Domino’s.

The Wolverines have the fourth-highest athletic profit in the nation

pabrady63/Adobe home of the michigan wolverines

The University of Michigan had the fourth-highest expenditures on athletics of FBS teams in the nation at $210.7 million, behind Alabama, Texas, and Ohio State. However, its profit was also the fourth highest at $17 million.

The Lions brought Detroit $40 million during the NFL playoffs

Aksana/Adobe joyful fans celebrating victory

Detroit hosted two playoff games in January 2024, which brought $20 million apiece in local business revenue. These events helped Uber drivers, stadium workers, bartenders, and restaurant employees make extra money.

Bottom line

Andrew Bayda/Adobe aerial shot of downtown detroit

Beyond the impressive statistics and Fortune 500 companies lie the true drivers of Michigan's economic success: its people. 

From visionary entrepreneurs to dedicated workers, generations of Michiganians have built and continue to build wealth and a thriving economy. 

Their stories, their grit, and their passion are what truly make the Great Lakes State great.

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Author Details

Jenni Sisson Jenni Sisson is a freelance writer and editor who focuses on personal finance, real estate, and entrepreneurship. She has been published in Business Insider and The Ways to Wealth. In addition to writing, Jenni hosts the Mama's Money Map podcast to help fellow stay-at-home moms on their journey to financial freedom.

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