Ford Explorer assembly line

The fourth quarter of 2010 showed strengthening auto sales, and analysts believe 2011 will reveal further sales growth. That will likely lead to more profit for automakers, and The Detroit News reports that Michigan jobs could follow. The report cites findings by the Center for Automotive Research (CAR) that show up to 23,000 new Michigan jobs in 2011 alone.

That's a huge number of high wage jobs in a region still burdened with unemployment levels over 10 percent, and a big reason the Mitten State is projected to be a jobs winner is a shift in the competitive landscape. Ford and General Motors are making money in a down auto market and Chrysler was breaking even even before refreshing most of its vehicle lineup. CAR points out that the Detroit Three are also competitive on labor and legacy costs, quality and manufacturing efficiency, which frees up more money for product development.

CAR has reportedly been able to track at least $5.6 billion in announced projects in Michigan over the past 24 months, and the industry continues to recover from the Great Recession; a number that stands a good chance of increasing.

[Source: Detroit News | Image: M. Spencer Green/AFP/Getty]