After a year of surpassed expectations, another economically successful year is expected for West Michigan, though growth may be limited compared to last year.

There are a few reasons 2018 employment is not expected to grow as much in 2017, according to Jim Robey, director of regional economic planning services at the W.E. Upjohn Institute for Employment Research.

Last year, there was a 2.5-percent increase in employment, about 13,500 jobs, though the forecast was 1.1 percent, according to reports by the Upjohn Institute.

There is a 0.74-percent increase in overall employment expected next year — about 3,500 jobs. Broken down, that's a 0.48-percent increase in manufacturing jobs, 0.73-percent increase in service jobs and 1.53-percent increase in government jobs.

At 3.6 percent, the Grand Rapids unemployment rate is the lowest it has been in nearly 20 years. There are about 21,000 people who are ready and able to work, but Robey said many of them do not have the skills required for the jobs that need to be filled. Fewer young people are choosing to attend trade school, leaving a shortage of skilled trade workers, for example. Other unemployed people may need to be retrained because their skills now are obsolete.

“We're not sure where those additional 3,500 jobs may come from,” Robey said.

He also mentioned limited space as an issue that may curtail the numbers. He said buildings have appreciated in value and office space is becoming scarcer as time moves on.

Grand Rapids' gross regional product is expected to increase by 1.8 percent.

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