Of the 212 communities in Southeastern Michigan for which labor force data was available from the American Community Survey, 119 experienced a decrease in the percentage of 16-64 year olds in the labor force between 2010 and 2015. Alternately examining the 16 years of age and up population, 135 of the 212 communities experienced a decrease. Port Huron Township in St. Clair County experienced the largest decline in its labor force for both the 16-64 year old population and the 16 and up population. For the 16-64 year old population the decline was 17.1 percent. In 2015, 74.7 percent of the 16-64 year old population in Port Huron Township was part of the labor force, and by 2015 that had declined to 61.9 percent. For the 16 and up population, Port Huron Township had a 19 percent decline in its labor force participation rate between 2010 and 2015, making that the largest decrease in the region. In 2010, 64.6 percent of Port Huron Township’s 16 and up population was in the labor force and by 2015 that declined to 52.4 percent.
While majority of the region experienced declines in the labor force participation rate, some communities experienced substantial increases. For the 16 and up population there were five communities with a percent change increase above 20 percent between 2010 and 2015. The city of Memphis had the largest percent change between 2010 and 2015 at 25.9 percent. In 2010, 61 percent of the population was participating in the labor force, and by 2015 that number increased to 76.8 percent. For the 16-64 year old population there were only three communities where the percent increase in labor force participation rates was above 10 percent. Summerfield Township in Monroe County had the largest percent increase for the 16-64 year old population at 14 percent. In 2010, 71 percent of the 16-64 year olds participated in the work force in Summerfield Township, and by 2015 that increased to 81.2 percent.
Overall, this post shows that majority of Southeastern Michigan has experienced a decline the percentage of individuals participating in the labor force since 2010. For labor force participation, there is a clear tendency for inner ring suburbs of Detroit to show moderate or substantial declines. Exurban townships evidenced some of the highest increases in labor force participation.
In 2015 the Labor Force participation rate throughout Southeastern Michigan was the lowest in Highland Park (at 58%) for those 16 and above , according to the American Community Survey. For reference, the rate average rate nationally was 62.4% in September 2015. By August 2017, it was 62.9.
As the maps below show, both high and low labor force participation is generally concentrated on the two sides of Eight Mile Road, just across county borders–low in northern Wayne County in the Detroit and Highland Park area, high in southern Oakland County in the Ferndale area.
An individual is considered part of the labor force if they have a job or are actively seeking one. The labor force participation rate is the percentage of adults who are members of the labor force.
 16 and above refers to all ages including those above 64.
For those 16 and older the City of Highland Park had the lowest labor force participation rate in the region at 58 percent for those 16 and older and 54 percent for those between the ages of 16-64. In the City of Detroit the labor for participation for those 16 and older was 63 percent; it was 53 percent for those between the ages of 16 and 64. While there was a pocket of Wayne County where the labor force participation rate wasn’t above 55.2 percent for those 16 and older and above 65 percent for those between 16 and 64, the majority of the region had labor force participation rates between 62.2 percent and 71.4 percent for those aged 16 and older and between 72.7 percent and 80.5 percent for those between the ages of 16 and 64. Just as there was a concentration of low labor force participation in Wayne County in and around Detroit, there was a concentration of the highest labor force participation markets in southern Oakland County in the Ferndale/Royal Oak area. In Royal Oak the labor force participation rate was 74.8 percent for those 16 and older and 86.2 percent for those between the ages of 18 and 64. Ferndale had the highest labor force participation rate at for those between ages of 16-64 at 87.9 percent, and for those 16 and older and it was 73.2 percent.
An understanding of the labor force participation rate is important as it is another strong indicator of the economy. Those classified as unemployed may not be active participants of the workforce for a variety of reasons, one of which includes becoming discouraged and stopping seeking employment.
Next week we will look at how the labor force participation rate has changed between 2010 and 2015 and also examine how it correlates to the region’s poverty rates.