Employment trends

From 1962 to 2000 the number of people employed in the U.S. rose fairly consistently despite multiple recessions. Specifically, since 2000 this number has fallen as a result of two more recent recessions, one which began in 2001 and the other that began in late 2007. Employment is improving but the U.S. has not yet recovered from the employment loss that started in 2001. See a recent article from The New York Times “Still Crawling Out of a Very Deep Hole,” for a further description on the recovery still taking place.

While employment continued on an upward trend in the U.S., the number of employed Michigan residents has not followed suit. The gap between the highs and lows of employed residents in Michigan are more extreme, with the highest number occurring in the year 2000. Since then, Michigan has experienced unprecedented job losses, although this has begun abating over the past two years. The population in the State of Michigan must also be taken into consideration.  Within the last 30 years, 1982 marks the lowest number of employed residents in Michigan; the population of the state was at about 9.1 million then. According to a Jan. 20, 2009 New York Times article by David Leonhardt, this trend, that is also represented at the national level, is due to higher Federal interest rates that led to inflation and the increase in oil prices that was sparked by the Iran Revolution in 1979.

From 1970 to 1990 the number of employed in Wayne County continued in a downward trend, as did the population. The data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows Wayne County had a population of 2.7 million in 1970 and the above data shows employment was at about 1.27 million; by 1990 the population fell to about 2.1 million and employment was at about 976,000. That downward trend slightly leveled off from 1990 to 2000 though; the employment in 2000 for Wayne County was documented at about 970,000 and the population was about 2 million. This means the number of employed was about 6,000 less in 2000 than in 1990, but as employment was still declining in the county the state and country were experiencing a spike of employment in 2000. Following the year 2000 the county experienced its all time low of employed residents, following the economic downfall that was affecting everyone in the U.S., especially Michigan and the Detroit area.  In 2010 Wayne County’s employment was documented at about 661,000.

The decline of employed people for the City of Detroit has been much steeper than what’s been experienced at the county, state and national level. Despite the short lived increase of employment in 2000 Detroit’s numbers have been continuously declining over the past four decades, as has the population. The employment to total population ratio for the city was 49% in 1970, by 2010 that number dropped to 28% The employment numbers continued to decrease as major Detroit employers, such as government offices, laid employees off and the city’s population fled elsewhere. Information describing Detroit’s declining population can be found in an earlier post here.

Despite layoffs by government related employers such as the City of Detroit, Detroit Public Schools and local federal government agencies, these three major employer categories continue to represent three of the city’s top five employers.  The Detroit Medical Center, which is made up of six hospitals, is the city’s third largest employer while Henry Ford Health is the fourth. While these five major employer categories hold the top spots for employment in the city not all employees are Detroit residents. However, DMC, Henry Ford and Wayne State have all recently been part of initiatives to provide incentives to employees willing to move to the city.

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