Yesterday (May 30, 2012), the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) published the latest unemployment numbers. The Detroit region posted the nation's largest unemployment rate decrease in April compared with the same time a year ago. The unemployment rate in the region fell from 11.1 percent in April 2011 to 8.7 percent this April.
Unemployment Rates, 2000-2012, Southeast Michigan and U.S.
The trend of unemployment rate changes is shown in the above chart. Unemployment in Southeast Michigan rose with the advent of the last decade’s first recession in 2001. While the nation recovered from that recession, Southeast Michigan did not. Continued restructuring of the domestic auto industry kept the unemployment rate around seven percent. With the 2008-2009 recession and the automotive bankruptcies, Southeast Michigan’s unemployment rate skyrocketed to 15.9 percent – much higher than the U.S. average of 10.2 percent in 2009. Since then, the unemployment rate in Southeast Michigan has been falling at a faster pace than the U.S. average.
While the unemployment rate drop is a welcoming sign for our region’s economic recovery, there is a long way to go to where we need to be. First, the jobless rate decrease has been largely due to the reduction in the labor force, meaning that many working-age people moved out or stopped looking for jobs. Second, it will take time for the benefit of the jobless rate decrease to trickle down to the economic well-being of a lot of people. The impact of the decade-long recession on the region’s population is no more evident than in the decline of wealth. The region experienced approximately a $16,000 decline (or 25 percent) in median household income and more than a $6,000 decline (or 20 percent) in per capita income from 2000 to 2010. Southeast Michigan residents have much less money to support themselves, their families, and a region in need of crucial public service and infrastructure improvements. That is a reason why we say we should keep a “balanced optimism.”
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