Signs Point Toward Economic Recovery in Southeastern Michigan

In June of 2021 the unemployment rate for the State of Michigan remained stable, and lower than a year ago, while the rate for the City of Detroit continued to decline through May of 2021. The State of Michigan reported an unemployment rate of 5 in June, which is the same as its May and April rates. Since April of 2020 the State’s unemployment rate has declined from 23.6 to 5.  For the City of Detroit, the unemployment rate for May of 2021 was 8.4, which is 1.8 points lower than the April unemployment rate and 31 points lower than the March 2020 rate, which is the highest rate in at least the last two years.

The chart above shows how unemployment rates have greatly declined over the last year and are remaining both stable and low. The chart below reflects a similar message, but highlights just how high unemployment rates were throughout Southeastern Michigan during the pandemic. In May of 2020, Wayne County had the highest unemployment rate at 27.4 percent. Three counties in the region had unemployment rates above 25 percent; Macomb and St. Clair counties had unemployment rates of 26.6 percent and 26.8 percent, respectively.

Between May of 2020 and May of 2021 St. Clair County had the largest difference in unemployment rates at 22.5 percent; in May of 2020 St. Clair County’s unemployment rate was 26.8 percent and in May of 2021 it was 4.3 percent. Washtenaw County had the smallest difference in unemployment rates in that time frame at 9 percent; Washtenaw County had a 13.7 percent unemployment rate in May of 2020 and a 4.7 unemployment rate in May of 2021.

In May of 2021 Livingston County had the lowest unemployment rate at 2.4 percent while Monroe County had the highest at 6.7 percent.

The number of state unemployment claims directly reflect the unemployment rates regionally and statewide. These claims, also referred to as insured unemployment, are the number of people who have already filed an initial claim and who have experienced a week of unemployment and then filed a continued claim to claim benefits for that week of unemployment. Continued claims data are based on the week of unemployment, not the week when the initial claim was filed, according to the Southeastern Michigan Council of Governments.

The chart below shows a spike in April and May of 2020, when COVID restrictions tightened throughout the State. Since then though there has been a steady decline in the number of continued claims. The largest declines occurred between May and June of 2020 and September and November of 2020. Although the recent overall trend has been a decline in claims, there was a slight increase in the middle of April and into early May of 2021, but even then, those numbers are among the lowest reported since January of 2020.  However, as July 3, 2021 there were 76,786 continued unemployment claims, the lowest number reported since January of 2020.

Although unemployment numbers have been on the decline, there has been a recent increase in the number of small business closures, according to the Opportunity Insights Economic Tracker. This source uses credit card transaction data from 500,000 small businesses, Opportunity Insights estimates closures from the number of small businesses not having at least one transaction in the previous three days. The data cover many industries, including healthcare services, leisure and hospitality, and retail and transportation. The data source does say it has less coverage in manufacturing, construction, and finance.

According to the data, 41 percent of small businesses closed as of July 18, 2021. This number was an increase from the 32 percent of small business that were estimated to be closed on June 18, 2021. 

The data shows that although small business closures at not as prevalent as at the beginning of the pandemic they are still closer to the high mark, rather than the low mark. There were significant drops in small business closures, such as in June and July of last year and those decreases could be related to the release of government aide at that time and a loosening of COVID restrictions.

Below shows the consumption expenditures of goods in the U.S. between 2019 and 2021. According to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, durable goods have an average useful life of at least 3 years (e.g. motor vehicles) while nondurable goods have an average useful life of less than 3 years (e.g. food) and services are commodities that cannot be stored or inventoried and are consumed at the time of purchase (e.g., dining out). The chart below shows how consumption of services continues to remain steady, but not back to pre-COVID levels. On May 1, 2021 it was estimated that there was $8,263 billion in consumption of services, a continued increase in consumption dollars but not yet at pre-pandemic levels.

The expenditures on durable and non-durable goods are however now above pre-COVID levels with the amount spent on durable goods being $3,338 billion as of May 1, 2021 and the amount spent on non-durable goods being $2,294 billion.

According to the Case-Shiller Home Price Index, the average price of single-family dwellings sold in Metro Detroit was $147,900 in April of 2021; this was $1,450 higher than the average family dwelling price in March. The April 2021 price was an increase of $14,050 from April of 2020 and $53,030 from April of 2014. Certainly, home prices have continued to increase year-after-year but the recent average price of single-family dwellings sold in the Metro-Detroit area has increased at a higher rate than in previous years. This is highlighted by the fact that the $14,050 increase in sale prices since 2020 is 25 percent of the overall increase in home prices since 2014 ($53,030).  

Attention on Mental Health in Michigan Growing, But More Focus Needed

The attention on mental health continues to grow, but data for Michigan shows that the State is lacking in several aspects. First off, Michigan only has five inpatient, state operated psychiatric hospitals. Furthermore, access to mental health care is lacking for many in the state. While each Michigan county has a Community Mental Health authority, board or facility the number of individuals who could benefit from their help outnumber the amount of time and programs offered through these organizations. Of course there are also private mental health care providers to assist with mental health disorders, but as research shows that availability is also lacking.

According to Kaiser Family Foundation, there are 235 Mental Health Care Professional Shortage Areas in Michigan, ranking it third in the nation with the highest number of such shortage areas. To move out of such a shortage area rank and designation the state needs a 23.5 percent increase in psychiatric help. The percent of need met is computed by dividing the number of psychiatrists available to serve the population of the area, group, or facility by the number of psychiatrists that would be necessary to eliminate the Mental Health Care Professional Shortage Area (based on a ratio of 30,000 to 1). More plainly speaking, 207 practitioners are needed to remove that designation; this is the number of additional psychiatrists needed to achieve a population-to-psychiatrist ratio of 30,000 to 1.

Such a shortage can lead to individuals utilizing their primary care physicians as their mental health doctor, or not seeing one at all. According to the “Understanding the expanding role of primary care physicians (PCPs) to primary psychiatric care physicians (PPCPs)” study, a third of primary care physicians’ patients are mental health patients. Furthermore, according to research from the Citizens Research Council of Michigan, the number of primary care physicians accessible to residents varies greatly by county in Michigan. Regionally, Washtenaw County had the highest rate of primary care physicians accessible to residents at 167 per 100,000 in 2015; Oakland County was the only other county in Southeastern Michigan with a rate above 100 at 150. Livingston County had the lowest rate of accessible primary care physicians at 46 per 100,000 residents. 

While there is clearly a shortage in the number of psychiatrists needed to assist those with mental disorders there are other barriers as well. For example, access to health care also plays a role in the help an individual can receive. According to 2019 Census data, 6.4 percent of Wayne County  residents had no health care coverage; the highest in the region. Monroe County had the lowest percentage of residents in the region without access to healthcare coverage at 4.1 percent. 

Access to mental health programs and trained professionals can be life or death for some. This is why we not only need additional funding for mental health care in Michigan, and the country, but also a revamped look at mental health in general. Those with untreated, and even treated, mental health disorders can end up in the criminal justice system, living on the streets or in homeless shelters, suffering from substance use disorders or experiencing other day-to-day life difficulties due to lack of consistent access to care. An overhaul in the system is needed, and to further prove this point we will dig further into some of the worst case scenarios lack of access to mental health care can lead to.

Great Lakes Levels Decline in 2021

A State of Emergency was declared for Wayne County due to flooding from Friday’s storm, I94 is still cannot be traversed in some places, and hundreds of residents in Southeastern Michigan will be dealing with flood damage to their homes for weeks–even months–to come. But, despite the onslaught of heavy rain, the Great Lakes levels remain lower than last year. 

How can this be? 


For perspective, one inch of water on Lakes Michigan and Huron is composed of 800 billion gallons of water. The 22 inches of water that has left Lake Michigan and Lake Huron over the last year represents 17.6 trillion gallons of water. It is total precipitation–rain and snowfall–that impacts water levels. Less precipitation and warmer days lead to lower lake levels. To put it in a different way, heavy snowfalls with low temperatures lead to greater ice coverage, causing less amounts of water to evaporate in the Great Lakes basin, and therefore leading to higher water levels. Evaporation levels are the highest when the temperature difference between the water and the air is high, and when the water is warmer than the air.

A State of Emergency was declared for Wayne County due to flooding from Friday’s storm, I94 is still cannot be traversed in some places, and hundreds of residents in Southeastern Michigan will be dealing with flood damage to their homes for weeks–even months–to come. But, despite the onslaught of heavy rain, the Great Lakes levels remain lower than last year. 

How can this be? 
For perspective, one inch of water on Lakes Michigan and Huron is composed of 800 billion gallons of water. The 22 inches of water that has left Lake Michigan and Lake Huron over the last year represents 17.6 trillion gallons of water. It is total precipitation–rain and snowfall–that impacts water levels. Less precipitation and warmer days lead to lower lake levels. To put it in a different way, heavy snowfalls with low temperatures lead to greater ice coverage, causing less amounts of water to evaporate in the Great Lakes basin, and therefore leading to higher water levels. Evaporation levels are the highest when the temperature difference between the water and the air is high, and when the water is warmer than the air.

According to the US Army Corps of Engineers, average lake levels for the Great Lakes Basin  for 2021 are much lower than what they averaged in 2020 during the month of June. Forecasted June 25, 2021 data from the US Army Corps of Engineers shows that the Lakes Michigan-Huron system is 22 inches below where it was on June 25 of 2020; the water level in Lake Ontario is 21 inches lower than where it was this time last year. Lake Superior, the largest and deepest lake in the Great Lakes, has water levels 7 inches below where it was in June of 2020. 

Less snowfall and warmer days meant the Great Lakes did not rise as high as they typically do in the spring. However, even though lake levels are lower than what they have been in recent years, they remain much higher than the long-term averages, with the exception of Lake Ontario. Lakes Michigan-Huron, Lake Erie and Lake St. Clair are all 13 or more inches higher than long-term averages. Lakes-Michigan-Huron are 13 inches higher than the long-term average while Lake St. Clair is 16 inches higher and Lake Erie is 14 inches higher. Lake Superior is 4 inches higher than the long-term June average, and Lake Ontario is 14 inches lower than the long-term June average. Of course, looking at how much higher current levels are than the lowest record monthly mean paints another picture.  Lakes Michigan-Huron, Lake Erie and Lake St. Clair are all 45-50 inches higher than the lowest record average in June. 

The shifts in weather patterns locally and beyond certainly mean changes for the long-term for what we may come to expect. Despite Great Lakes levels being low this year, on average, they remain higher than long-term averages. But, if we continue to have milder winters and hotter summers, then that will have the opposite effect on our Great Lakes–a loss of one of our greatest natural resources.  

A Look At Our Fathers

We may have just celebrated Father’s Day, but year-round dads work and take care of their children. For many, this is reflective in a more traditional, nuclear setting but there are thousands of instances where the dad is the sole caretaker–in more ways than one. 

According to the 2019 American Community Survey, information on the percentage of children living with only their father is categorized by those 6 years of age and under and then those between the ages of 7-17. Throughout Southeastern Michigan less than 5 percent of children 6 years of age or younger in each county live solely with their father. According to the data, in 2019 Macomb County had the highest percentage of children 6 years of age or younger only living with their father at 3.4 percent, followed by Monroe County where 3.2 percent of children 6 years of age and younger lived with only their father. In St. Clair and Wayne counties 3 percent of children 6 years of age and younger lived with their father. For those between the ages of 7 and 17, Macomb County again had the highest percentage of children living with only their father at 6.8 percent. Wayne County had the second highest percentage of children living with only their father at 6.4 percent and Washtenaw County had the lowest percentage of children between the ages of 7-17 living with only their father at 3.3 percent.

In addition to tracking data on the percentage of children living with only their father, the Census also tracks how many children live in a home with both a mother and father, but where only the father works. For the 6 years of age and younger group, Monroe County had the highest percentage of married fathers being the sole income providers for the family at 9.5 percent, followed by Macomb County at 9.2 percent. Washtenaw County had the lowest percentage of married fathers with children 6 years of age or younger who were the sole income providers at 5.8 percent. For the 7-17 age range, Livingston County had the highest percentage of children of married fathers being the sole income providers for the family at 15.4 percent, followed by Macomb County at 13.7 percent. 

While this post shows data on fathers that is not traditionally seen, in researching data on fathers it was also discovered that data sets on them are not as extensive as on mothers. None-the-less, fathers deserve thanks year-round, whether they are serving as the sole income provider for a home, supporting their family with a partner or raising children on their own. 

Rental Prices in Southeastern Michigan Continue to Rise

The rental market in Southeastern Michigan is mirroring that of the home-buying market. With low supply and rising prices, being further driven up by high demand, many are finding it difficult to secure a rental home, especially one they can afford, according to various news sources. 

According to Re/MAX of Southeastern Michigan, there are fewer rental units on the market than homes for sale. There were 2,480 single-family homes for rent from January through April, across 18 counties in central and southeastern Michigan, according to Realcomp. That number has decreased for two consecutive years, with 3,090 rental homes being available the same period in 2020, and 3,514 through the same period in 2019. 

Below shows the percentage of vacant rental units available in 2019 by county in Southeastern Michigan, according to the American Community Survey. As shown, Oakland County had the highest percentage of vacant rental units at 23.8 percent, followed by Macomb County at 22.9 percent. St. Clair County had the lowest available rental stock at 7.3 percent. As mentioned above though, available rental stock across the region, and state, has decreased, increasing demand and making it more difficult and competitive for individuals to find rental units. According to Re/MAX, another factor driving low rental unit stock is that would-be homebuyers are remaining in rentals longer due to the low stock and high price of homes for sale.

According to a recent Detroit News article, rental prices have increased upwards of 20 percent in the last year. According to the 2019 American Community Survey, Washtenaw County had the highest median gross rent at $1,114, followed by Oakland County with a gross median rent of $1,040 and Livingston County with a gross median rent of $1,053. These were the only area counties with gross median rents above $1,000 but with rental prices increasing upwards of 20 percent throughout the region, others, such as Macomb County (2019 median rent of $962) will be above that threshold. 

According to the Detroit News, which used ApartmentGuide.com as a source, the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Detroit rose from $1,332 to $1,516 between April 2020 and April 2021, and a two-bedroom apartment in Detroit rose from $1,764 to $2,319. In Farmington Hills, which is also in Wayne County, the average rent for a one-bedroom increased from $1,134 to $1,289 from April 2020 to April 2021, and a two-bedroom increased from $1,442 to $1,655. The City of Troy experienced the largest year-to-year change at 63.3 percent, according to the data, while Southfield experienced a 33 percent change and Rochester Hills experienced a 30 percent change. Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids, Lansing and Ypsilanti, all college towns, experienced decreases in average rental prices between 2020-2021, likely due to the decreased numbers of students needing housing because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

With increased rental unit pricing comes the concern of affordability. The average rule of thumb is that those who rent should spend about 30 percent of their income on their rental unit. In 2019, according to the American Community Survey, the average resident living in Wayne and Monroe counties was already living above that. According to the data, the average percentage of gross income spent on rent in Wayne County was 32 percent and in Monroe County it was 30.7 percent. Macomb, St. Clair and Washtenaw counties were all at the 30 percent threshold (29.3%, 29.7% and 29.8%, respectively). Oakland County had the lowest percentage of gross median income spent on rent at 26.8 percent.

Increasing rental prices, driven by lack of supply, will affect thousands of people throughout the region. According to the 2019 American Community Survey, in Wayne County, 38 percent of occupied housing units in the county were occupied by renters. In Washtenaw County that percentage was 39, but it likely decreased in 2020 and 2021 due to the lack of students on college campuses because of the pandemic. Livingston County had the lowest percentage of occupied housing units occupied by renters at 15; all other counties in the region had percentages above 20.

The low rental stock and increase of rental prices is now drawing even greater concern as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s moratorium on some evictions is set to end June 30. According to Michigan’s 2-1-1 service, which is a United Way service that connects individuals with various agencies to provide assistance, 21,318 inquiries were made between March 5, 2020 and June 9, 2021 about rental assistance. Furthermore, according to the Census Bureau’s Pulse Survey, about 250,000 Michigan residents said they were behind on rent or mortgage payments as of April 26, 2021.  In March of this year, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer approved allocating about $282 million in federal rental aid, $220 million of which is for emergency rental assistance. Michigan also received $660 million in rent aid from Congress in December of 2020, but how it can be allocated must be approved by the Michigan legislature. There may also be another round of funding of about $223 million to come to Michigan from the federal government, according to the Michigan State Housing Development Authority.

Number of Michigan Concealed Pistol Licenses Continues to Rise

As of June 1, 2021 there were 751,102 approved Concealed Pistol Licenses (CPLs) in Michigan, a number that has been increasing over the years. Of that total, 46 percent of those license holders reside in Southeastern Michigan. Within Southeastern Michigan, Wayne County has the highest number of CPL holders at 120,164, followed by Oakland and Macomb counties (89,596 and 72,515, respectively).

In order to obtain a CPL a Michigan resident must meet the following requirements:

  • Be at least 21 years of age
  • Be a citizen of the United States or an alien lawfully admitted into the United States
  • Be a legal resident of Michigan and reside in Michigan for at least six months immediately prior to application.
  • Not have been convicted of various crimes
  • Meet certain requirements regarding mental illness
  • Complete a CPL class

To view the entire criteria list click here

In 2016 County Gun Boards were eliminated; these bodies had the power to deny an individual a CPL if the license was deemed detrimental to the applicant or others. Now, County Clerks and the Michigan State Police process concealed weapon applications. As noted earlier, since then the number of CPLs in Michigan has increased. As of December 2016 there were 497,016 active CPLs in Michigan and now there are 751,102.

The cost of the CPL application process varies between counties (specifically County Clerk departments) and according to the Michigan State Police, in Southeastern Michigan it cost Washtenaw County the most, on average, to process an application at $36.08. Livingston County had the lowest average cost at $14.81. 

The data used for this post is from the Michigan State Police.

A Look Into Southeastern Michigan’s Housing Price Spike

It’s no secret that over the last year-and-a-half the housing market has experienced an increase in the number of sales and prices and a decrease in stock. At a time when economic stability has been uncertain for hundreds of thousands, an obvious question is—what is driving the housing market up? As the data sets below show there are several factors behind rising sales and decreasing housing stock.

First, understanding how the average price of a single-dwelling unit has changed over the last several years is important in understanding how housing prices got to where they are today. According to the Case-Shiller Home Price Index, the average price of single-family dwellings sold in Metro Detroit was $148,500 in February of 2021; this was $1,500 higher than the average family dwelling price in January. The February 2021 price was an increase of $14,070 from February of 2020 (over a 10 percent increase) and $49,430 from February of 2014. Home prices have continued to increase year-after-year but the recent average price of single-family dwellings sold in the Metro-Detroit area has increased at a higher rate than in previous years.

One reason behind the increased cost of a single family dwelling unit is the supply. Simply put, the availability is not meeting the demand. According to a RE/MAX of Southeastern Michigan housing report from March, the supply of inventory for available homes is at less than a month. A balanced housing market has six months supply of inventory, according to RE/MAX. According to the National Association of Realtors a months supply of inventory means the number of months it would take for the current inventory of homes to sell if no other homes were to hit the market.

One way to increase inventory is to build more homes. However, this takes time and also costs money. According to the Federal Reserve of Economic Data there were 942 housing starts in the Detroit-Warren-Dearborn Metropolitan Statistical Area as of March 1, 2021; on March 1, 2020 there were 452 housing starts. While the data shows an increase in housing starts since 2020, housing starts have not reached the peak levels of 2017 (1,308 on May 1, 2017). In order to move housing starts along there needs to several things, including demand, enough workers to meet demand, and supplies.

Lumber is a large component in building homes, and completing remodels. With a higher demand for new housing starts and remodels, the price of lumber has increased nationally. According to the National Association of Home Building, lumber prices have increased by more than 300 percent since April 2020; this has caused the average price of a new single-family home to increase by nearly $36,000.

The chart below shows an overview of how framing lumber prices have fluctuated, and grown, in recent months. As of May 14, 2021 the average price of lumber per thousand board feet was about $1,500; in early November of 2020 the price was recorded at just under $600. The information is sourced each week using the Random Lengths Framing Lumber Composite which is comprised using prices from the highest volume-producing regions of the U.S. and Canada.

Lumber is a large component in building homes, and completing remodels. With a higher demand for new housing starts and remodels, the price of lumber has increased nationally. According to the National Association of Home Building, lumber prices have increased by more than 300 percent since April 2020; this has caused the average price of a new single-family home to increase by nearly $36,000.

The chart below shows an overview of how framing lumber prices have fluctuated, and grown, in recent months. As of May 14, 2021 the average price of lumber per thousand board feet was about $1,500; in early November of 2020 the price was recorded at just under $600. The information is sourced each week using the Random Lengths Framing Lumber Composite which is comprised using prices from the highest volume-producing regions of the U.S. and Canada.

In addition to supply and demand of housing stock and materials, low mortgage rates are also behind an increase in home sales. According to the National Association of Home Builders the average annual rate of a 30-year fixed mortgage in April 2021 was 3.15 percent; the average annual rate for a 15-year fixed mortgage in April 2021 was 2.47 percent. The data shown below goes back to February of 2015 and in that time frame rates have never been as low as they have been within the last year. While the April rates are slightly up from the December 2020 rates, overall mortgage rates have been decreasing since December of 2018.

Work from Home Capabilities Continue to Drive Movement to the Metro-Detroit Suburbs

Suburbs are “in” again, according to recent research highlighted in the Wall Street Journal, after nearly a decade of increased migration to and interest in cities. However, while the pandemic has changed how many of us live, and plan to live, Census data shows that in Southeastern Michigan there has been a trend for some time of people leaving the more heavily populated areas and moving to the less dense areas, and increasing density there.

In 2019 Wayne County had the highest population density at 2,872 people per square mile. Detroit is located in Wayne County and in 2019 it had a population density of 4,689 per square mile, which remains the highest in the state despite decades of decline. As both the second and third map below show migration out of Wayne County has been the highest in the region since at least 2010. Between 2019 and 2014 there was a 1.8 percent decline in the population density of Wayne County and between 2010 and 2019 the total decline came in at 6 percent. Wayne County had a population of 1.75 million people in 2019 as compared to 1.77 million in 2014.

Washtenaw County, which had a population density of 520 people per square mile in 2019, experienced the highest percentage increase in population density between 2014-2019 and 2010-2019. According to Census data, between 2014-2019 there was a 4.3 percent increase in population density and between 2010-2019 there was a 6.7 percent increase. In 2019 Washtenaw County had a population of 367,601.

In Southeastern Michigan, Wayne, Macomb and Oakland counties all had the highest population densities at 2,872, 1,814 and 1,475, respectively. While Wayne County has lost population in recent years, Macomb and Oakland counties gained it, and with that came an increase in density. Between 2010-2019 Macomb County experienced a 3.9 percent increase in its population density and Oakland County experienced a 4.4 percent increase. Aside from Washtenaw County, Livingston County was the only other one to experience an increase; between 2010-2019 Livingston County experienced a 3.6 percent increase in population density. Monroe and St. Clair counties remain the least densely populated and have lost density since 2010 (a smaller decrease than Wayne County).

According to HomeSnacks.com, which ranks the fastest growing communities based on Census data, the following places have experienced the highest percentage of population growth since 2010 in Michigan:

  • Rockford
  • Novi
  • Coldwater
  • Auburn Hills
  • East Grand Rapids
  • Chelsea
  • New Baltimore
  • Milan
  • Kentwood
  • Rochester

Of these 10 communities, three are  in Oakland County (Novi, Rochester, Auburn Hills), one is in Macomb County (New Baltimore) and two are in Washtenaw County (Chelsea and Milan); none are in Wayne, Washtenaw or Monroe counties, all of which have been losing residents.

So, while Southeastern Michigan has been experiencing the migration of residents out of the Detroit for sometime, it is expected to continue. According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, the pandemic has caused the largest cities in the country to experience an exodus of residents, in part, due to an increased accessibility of remote work. According to the Wall Street Journal’s analysis of US Post Service data and Census data, the Midwest, Northeast and West all lost residents since the pandemic began while the South gained residents.

A shift in migration also means there will be, eventually, a shift in the fiscal health of cities and regions. In areas where people are leaving, tax revenue will also depart. What this could mean for places like Detroit and Michigan has yet to remain seen. However, with the continued out-migration of residents from Michigan over the last decade we do know that the State is losing another Congressional seat.

Certain Detroit Crime Incidents Decrease in 2020

The Detroit Police Department publishes public data on the number of crime incidents that occur by type of crime, precinct and year on its open data portal. The information provided below has been retrieved from this data portal and highlights the number of incidents, not victim counts, for each Detroit precinct in 2019 and 2020. The crimes reported on in this post are:

•Assault: attempt to cause physical injury to another person;

•Aggravated assault: assault, without a weapon, that results in a serious or aggravated injury;

•Homicide: the killing of another person, whether intentional or not;

•Sexual assault: forcing or coercing an individual to engage in any non-consensual sexual contact or sexual penetration.

The number of reported incidents for each type of crime varies across the precincts but one data piece stands out amongst all four types of crime: there was a decrease in reported incidents between 2019 and 2020. In both 2019 and 2020 the highest number of reported incidents was under the assault category, followed by the aggravated assault category and then sexual assaults and homicides.

In 2019 the Detroit Police Department reported 17,233 assault incidents and in 2020 it reported 12,534 assault incidents. Of the 11 precincts, Precinct 8 had the highest number of assault incidents in both 2019 and 2020. In 2019 there were 2,505 assault incidents reported in Precinct 8 and 1,660 in 2020. Precinct 4 had the lowest number of reported assault incidents in 2019 at 913 and Precinct 7 had the lowest number of assault incidents in 2020 at 657.

In 2019 the Detroit Police Department reported a total of 7,708 aggravated assault incidents and in 2020 a lower number of 7,311 incidents was reported. In both 2019 and 2020 Precinct 9 had the highest number of reported aggravated assault incidents at 1,210 and 1,107, respectively. Precinct 3 had the lowest number of reported incidents in 2019 and 2020 at 421 and 315, respectively. 

Between 2019 and 2020 there was a decrease in the number of reported homicides in the City of Detroit, according to the police department’s open data portal. In 2019 there were 276 reported homicides and in 2020 there were 244. Precinct 9 had the highest number of reported homicides in both 2019 and 2020 at 42 each year. Precinct 3 had the lowest number of reported homicides in 2019 and 2020 at 8 and 12, respectively.

In 2019 there were 817 reported sexual assault incidents in the City of Detroit, according to the police department’s open data portal. In 2020 467 sexual assault incidents were reported. Precinct 9 had the highest number of reported incidents in 2019 at 131; this was the only precinct in 2019 and 2020 with more than 100 sexual assault incident reports. In 2020 Precinct 8 had the highest number of incidents reported at 57. In 2019 Precinct 7 had the lowest number of reported sexual assault incidents at 40 and Precinct 4 had the lowest number of reported incidents at 27 in 2020.

Recent 2019 FBI data highlights how crime rates across the country continued to increase from 2018 to 2019. For example, in Detroit, shootings and homicides rose for the second-straight year, by 53 percent and 19 percent, respectively. And, while national FBI crime data helps paint a broad picture on crime trends, the 2020 data provided by Detroit’s open data portal shows that in 2020 there was a decrease in crime incidents. Of those reported on here—assault, aggravated assault, homicide and sexual assault—there was a decrease from 2019 to 2020 across the board.

According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime the COVID-19 pandemic impacted crime statistics for several reasons. Certainly the initial lockdown, which kept many social interactions at bay, likely impacted the number of crimes that would have occurred early on. The drop in crime is correlated with the mobility of the population, so when restrictions were tighter there were fewer crimes reported, particularly property crimes (at homes, not businesses) and homicides. However, nationally, there was a spike in homicide rates in early summer, but it is unknown if that relates to the pandemic or other factors.

Additionally, while there was likely a decrease in the number of incidents there was also likely a decrease in reporting.

As we near the halfway mark of 2021, with vaccination rates increasing and restrictions loosening the question is whether crime rates increase from 2020 levels, remain the same or continue to decrease. As the pandemic continues to affect society, the changes in crime statistics helps us develop a deeper understanding of its affect on long-term crime rate trends.

Unemployment Rates Leveling Off, Consumer Consumption Increasing

In March of 2021 the unemployment rates for the State of Michigan and for the City of Detroit continued to a decline, which is a more recent trend. The State of Michigan reported an unemployment rate of 5.2 in March, which is the same at its February rate. However, since December of 2020 the State’s unemployment rate declined from 7.3 to 5.2.  For the City of Detroit, the unemployment rate for March of 2021 was 9.3, which is 0.3 points lower than the February unemployment rate and 11 points lower than the December 2020 rate. Both the Michigan and the Detroit rates were similar to the January 2020, pre-pandemic rates.

The chart above shows unemployment rates beginning to level off and the chart below reflects a similar message for some counties. Livingston, Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties all reported higher unemployment rates in March of 2020 than March of 2021. In March of 2020 St. Clair County had the highest unemployment rate of 5.9, followed by Wayne County with an unemployment rate of 5.7.  Washtenaw County had the lowest unemployment rate in March 2020 at 2.7, but by March of 2021 that increased to 4.3. Washtenaw and Monroe counties were the only two in the region with higher unemployment rates in March of 2021 than March 2020. Both Monroe and Wayne counties had the highest unemployment rates in March of 2021 at 5.6. Livingston County had the lowest unemployment rate in March of 2021 at 3.2.

Just as the unemployment rate in the region is declining, so is the number of continued unemployment claims. These claims, also referred to as insured unemployment, are the number of people who have already filed an initial claim and who have experienced a week of unemployment and then filed a continued claim to claim benefits for that week of unemployment. Continued claims data are based on the week of unemployment, not the week when the initial claim was filed, according to the Southeastern Michigan Council of Governments.

The chart below shows a spike in April and May of 2020, when COVID restrictions tightened throughout the State. Since then though there has been a steady decline in the number of continued claims. The largest declines occurred between May and June of 2020 and September and November of 2020. Although there have been some increases in the number of continued unemployment claims since November of 2020, the April 10, 2021 number of 102,721 unemployed claims is the lowest number of claims in over a year.

Although unemployment numbers have been on the decline, there has been a recent increase in the number of small business closures, according to the Opportunity Insights Economic Tracker. This source uses credit card transaction data from 500,000 small businesses, Opportunity Insights estimates closures from the number of small businesses not having at least one transaction in the previous three days. The data cover many industries, including healthcare services, leisure and hospitality, and retail and transportation. The date source does says it has less coverage in manufacturing, construction, and finance.

According to the data, 31 percent of small businesses closed as of May 1, 2021. This number was an increase from the 26 percent of small business that were estimated to be closed on April 23, 2021. 

Since April of 2020 the percentage of small business closures has increased, but those numbers are not as high as when the pandemic began.

Below shows the consumption expenditures of goods in the U.S. between 2019 and 2021. According to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, durable goods have an average useful life of at least 3 years (e.g. motor vehicles) while nondurable goods have an average useful life of less than 3 years (e.g. food) and services are commodities that cannot be stored or inventoried and are consumed at the time of purchase (e.g., dining out). The chart below shows how consumption of services continues to remain steady, but not back to pre-COVID levels. On March 1, 2021 it was estimated that there was $8,182 billion in consumption of services, a slight increase from the month prior but below the January 1, 2020 levels.

The expenditures on durable and non-durable goods are now increasing above pre-COVID levels with the amount spent on durable goods being $2,314 billion as of March 1, 2021 and the amount spent on non-durable goods being $3,342 billion.

According to the Case-Shiller Home Price Index, the average price of single-family dwellings sold in Metro Detroit was $148,500 in February of 2021; this was $1,500 higher than the average family dwelling price in January. The February 2021 price was an increase of $14,070 from February of 2020 and $49,430 from February of 2014. Home prices have continued to increase year-after-year but the recent average price of single-family dwellings sold in the Metro-Detroit area has increased at a higher rate than in previous years.