LANSING, Mich. (MIRS News) – Retail sales in Michigan increased significantly over March, as retailers anticipate a bright summer in sales through July, according to a Michigan Retailers Association (MRA) report Wednesday.

The April Retail Index survey, which is a 100-point index representing a look at the overall retail industry in Michigan, was at 60.6. The March Retail Index was 57.4. Values over 50 are positive.

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“The data is a heartening snapshot into Michigan retailers’ day-to-day operations, especially with their never-ending challenges against price increases and employment woes,” said MRA President and CEO William Hallan.

The unemployment rate in Michigan was at 3.8% in April. Among those in the retail sector, 32% predicted they would be hiring over the next three months, while 62% said there would be no change.

Another 52% of Michigan retailers reported an increase in sales, 34% saw a decrease and 14% noted no change.

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For the second month, the number of retailers optimistic about future sales rose and 70% said they expected it through July. There were 12% expecting a decrease and 18% expecting no change.

In related news, the 19th annual Entrepreneurship Score Card put out by the Small Business Association of Michigan (SBAM) Foundation, which measures specific entrepreneurship indicators, found an “upward swing of steady growth, even outpacing the U.S. average.

Business starts have hit record highs, despite the inherent risks associated with starting a small business.

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“The pandemic seems to have sparked an impressive increase in entrepreneurship,” said SBAM President and CEO Brian Calley. “Michigan citizens appear to be turning to entrepreneurship more than ever before, even as the rising costs of inflation and worker shortages pose challenges, and a potential economic slowdown looms on the horizon.”

Small business revenue is up 24.2%. Small business ownership is up 8.5%.

 The pressing issue continues to be the thin labor force, with 721,000 fewer people in the workforce as compared to January 2000. Labor force participation peaked at 68.8% around the turn of the century. Today, Michigan struggles to stay above 60%.