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.  

Boston Edison/Dexter Linwood Area of Detroit Has Highest Percentage of Children with Elevated Blood Lead Levels

In 2019, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) reported 1,299 children under 6 years old had Elevated Blood Lead Levels (EBLL) in the City of Detroit. The Detroit zip code with the highest percentage of children under the age of 6 with EBLL was 48206, which is located in the Boston Edison/Dexter Linwood area of the City. Here, 15.5 percent of tested children under the age of 6 had an EBLL. Overall, there were 8 zip codes in Detroit where 10 percent or more of tested children under the age of 6 had an EBLL. Furthermore, the number of children with EBLL is likely substantially under reported of the true number. This is because only a third of the eligible children are tested, so if all were tested, it is likely than many more would have an EBLL. In addition, testing has substantially decreased during the pandemic.

The 8 zip codes with EBLL above 10 percent in Detroit in 2019 were:

  • 48202 (10.6%)
  • 48203 (10.5%)
  • 48204 (13.1%)
  • 48206 (15.5%)
  • 48213 (14.4%)
  • 48214 (12.3%)
  • 48215 (10.4%)
  • 48238 (10.9%)

These neighborhoods are amongst the oldest residential neighborhoods in the Detroit-Metro area. And, with a few exceptions, the zip codes with high numbers of children with EBLL have high percentages of black residents. The first map below shows the zip codes in Detroit with the percentage of children under the age of 6 with EBLL; the second map shows the percentage of black residents in Detroit and Metro-Detroit. The overlap is apparent.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there is no safe level of lead, and even a small amount can cause irreversible damage. Yet, in Detroit several areas continue to be plagued with by lead exposure. There are several reasons behind this, many of which are impacted by income, poverty, access to safe and updated housing.

Lead paint was banned from use in 1978 yet there are more than 337,000 homes in Detroit built before 1980 (when lead paint came off the shelves), according to Census data. Additionally, income directly impacts what type of housing an individual and/or a family can afford. With a median income of $31,000 and 35 percent of families in the City living at or below the poverty level it is fair to suggest that many families are living in older, less expensive housing where hazardous issues are likely more prevalent, and these families cannot afford the $20,000 to $40,000 cost of abating the major lead hazards in the home. Lead paint is a top contributor to lead poisoning and without it being mitigated, lead poisoning will continue. Additionally, some children are lead poisoned through soil, spices, pottery and water. Also, leaded gasoline and demolitions have added lead dust to the soils in Detroit.

Children’s cognitive and physical health will continue to be impacted without mitigation of lead poisoning and its causes, specifically lead paint remaining in homes throughout the City. Children with EBLL can be impacted by the following side effects of the neurotoxin of lead:

 •Decreased Intelligence

•Decreased impulse control and thus increases reactivity

•Calcium deficiencies

•ADHD and Behavioral issues

•Osteoporosis

•Decreased school performance

•Permanent damage to kidneys and the heart

Concerns over lead poisoning and the resources needed to eliminate it have long been a topic of discussion, however without funding there can be no action. Funding needs to be direct and plentiful as well.  So a multi-faceted plan needs to provide regular lead testing, funding for lead abatement, and relocation means to get families out of homes that aren’t worth salvaging and into safer ones. Lead abatement and housing relocation programs exist, but the necessary funding to make a greater impact and create long-term sustainability clear has not been realized.

Long-term funding and policies to reduce and eventually eliminate lead poisoning should include:

•Universal blood lead testing for all children under 6 in each County in Southeast Michigan;

•A required Lead Investigation/Risk Assessment (LI/RA) for all homes at sale (for homes built before 1980) and required abatement of hazards, when they are found.

•A requirement for all landlords to complete a LI/RA and abate all hazards for homes older than 1980.

•An increase in the home abatements in Metro-Detroit by 400-500% annually.

•The financial and programmatic ability to support the relocation of several hundred households a year, where abatement is not available for their homes.

•A cleaning program for homes where children or pregnant women are living, and/or where a child has been identified with an EBLL or the home has lead paint hazards. This program would provide ongoing training and support to teach and incentivize families to super clean their homes until their home can be abated or until the family can relocate.

USPS Reports Decreased Vacancy Rates in Detroit

In December of 2020 the US Postal Service reported 74,313 total vacant properties in the City of Detroit, equivalent to a 19 percent vacancy rate. This rate is the lowest report rated since 2015, as can be seen in the first chart below. Additionally in 2020 the Postal Service reported 317,272 occupied addresses.

According to the first map below, while the overall vacancy rate in December of 2020 was 19 percent, there were several areas in the City with much higher rates. The highest rates stemmed off of I-96 and Gratiot Avenue in the City of Detroit, with the highest overall rate for a Census Tract being 52.3 percent in the Morningside/Chandler Park area. Conversely, vacancies remained the lowest in the Downtown Detroit area and Green Acres/Pembroke/Bagley areas. High vacancy rates in the City ranged from 31-52.3 percent and low vacancy rates ranged from 1.9 to 9.3 percent. Between September and December of 2020 the vacancy rate decreased by 0.3 percent. Additionally, the vacancy rate had an annual 2 percent decrease plus a 2.8 percent decrease over a five year time period. The second map below shows the long-term trends; all but seven Census Tracts experienced a decrease in vacancy or little to no change between 2019 and 2020. The Chandler Park area had the highest increase in vacancy rates between December 2019 and 2020 at 3.5 percent.

The USPS provides aggregate vacancy and no-stat counts of residential and business addresses that are collected by postal workers and submitted to on a quarterly basis the Department of Housing and Urban Development. While occupancy status is recorded, USPS does not capture any information about the nature of the vacancy or the address itself, other than whether it is a residential or business address. To the USPS, the address is either occupied and requires mail service or is vacant and does not. An address is deemed vacant if it did not collect mail for 90 days or longer. In addition to occupied and vacant addresses there are also “no stat” addresses. A “no stat” address is deemed that if it is under construction and not yet occupied or is in an urban area and identified by a carrier as not likely to be active for some time.

As noted, overall vacancy rates in the City of Detroit have been declining, and this also true at both the residential and business levels. Residential vacancy rates in September of 2015 were 22.6 percent, which was equivalent to 81,666 residential vacancies. By December of 2020 that number of vacancies decreased to 19.3 percent, or 67,442 total vacancies.

For business vacancies there was a total of  6,871 vacant businesses out of 28,438 total businesses in the City, this was equivalent to 24.2 percent. In September of 2015 the vacancy rate was 24.6 percent for a total of 7,337 vacant businesses out of 29,885.

Examining both charts below we see that there has been a steadier decline in residential vacancy rates than business vacancy rates. Between 2015 and 2019 business vacancies were actually climbing, and reached a high of 28 percent in December of 2018. Then, through the Pandemic declined substantially, though it is not clear why.

According to the USPS there was 27,878 “no stat” addresses reported in Detroit in December of 2020, an increase of 3,884 from the year prior.

Access to Michigan Child Care Needs Re-evaluation

Child care has long been a critical need for parents, and as the COVID-19 pandemic drags on that need continues to grow. When the virus first arrived in Michigan child care centers shutdown as many unknowns loomed. Over a year later, some centers have reopened, while others have not, and capacity has been reduced at many of them. Additionally, the work environment for many parents has shifted as well–essential workers are tasked to the brim, and those working from home have had to juggle a new reality of work and children in the same space in some cases. Not only has the child care landscape shifted in the COVID era, but its financial accessibility has long been an issue. This shift means decreased enrollment, leaving some providers to ask if they should close their doors. But, even more doors closing means the families that still need child care have fewer options, and likely even more expensive options, due to higher demand because of a tighter market. Since COVID first hit Michigan 5.8 percent of women in the workforce have left, many of whom have cited childcare as the reason. Costs are and accessibility are certainly behind that.

According to the Michigan League for Public Policy, the average cost of child care in the State of Michigan was $708 a month for infant care and $726 for toddler care in 2020. In Southeastern Michigan the cost of infant and child care was equal to or higher than the state average in five of the seven counties. In Oakland County, the cost was the highest for both types of care. The average cost of infant care in Oakland County was $929 and the average cost of toddler care was $894. Monroe County had the lowest average monthly cost of infant and toddler care, regionally, at $627 and $615, respectively.

There are some programs that provide financial assistance to families for child care, however, very few are eligible for such subsidies. According to the Michigan League of Public Policy, 5.3 percent of Michigan children 5 years of age or younger were approved for child care subsidies in 2020. In Southeastern Michigan, Wayne County had the highest percentage of children 5 years of age or under who were approved for subsidies at 8.3 percent. These subsidy percentages are among the lowest they have been in decades, according to the Michigan League of Public Policy. The percent of children receiving a child care subsidy has declined 65 percent over the past two decades.

Just as the cost of child care often makes it difficult for families to utilize the service, so does its accessibility. According to the Michigan League of Public Policy, St. Clair County had the highest percentage of open child care centers as of January 2021 at 71 percent, followed by Washtenaw County at 68 percent. Oakland County had the lowest percentage of open child care centers at 60 percent. Furthermore, areas with higher median incomes and housing values tend to have more child care centers, as residents of such areas tend to be able to afford child care more easily. The numbers in the chart above do not necessarily reflect the long-term data that shows areas of higher incomes have greater access to child care as many child care centers closed currently are based on personal business decision related to COVID. An item to consider on this as well are that areas such as Oakland County, where the median incomes tend to be high, have amongst the lowest percentage of open child care centers because they have more income to afford in-home care or for a parent to remain with the children at home, leaving less need for child care centers at this time.

Income clearly plays a role in a parent’s ability to utilize child care services. Although we noted that some subsidies are available, a higher percentage needs to be allocated, which means the state and federal government needs to allocate additional dollars. Also, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer recently launched the MI Tri-Share Child Care Pilot Program, which splits the cost of child care equally between the employee, the employer and the state. Those eligible to participate in the Tri-Share pilot must be employed by a participating employer, have an income above 150% of the Federal Poverty Line (FPL) and below 250% FPL, and not otherwise be eligible for the Child Development and Care Program. The three regional facilitator hubs chosen for the Tri-Share pilot are: Goodwill Industries of West Michigan, serving Muskegon County; Saginaw Intermediate School District, serving the Great Lakes Bay Region; and the United Way of Northwest Michigan, serving a five-county rural region in Northwest Lower Michigan. This program is a step in the right direction but additional actions need to be taken to ensure child care is affordable and accessible to all.

COVID Ranks High Among Detroit Community, Household Concerns

When respondents to the 2021 Detroit Community Survey were asked to rate top problems for their community and household, COVID-19 again found its way to the top of the list. Respondents were presented with a list of 15 concerns and asked to rate each one on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the most serious, on how much of a problem it was their community and their household. For each item, the average response was greater on the rating as a community problem than as a household problem.

According to the respondents, COVID ranked as an 8.02 on the scale as a community problem and a 4.6 as a household problem. The average difference between the two ratings ranged from 1.59 to 3.92, and averaged 2.97.

The respondents ranked COVID, having money to survive and job loss as the top three community problems. The top three household problems were having money to survive, COVID and housing costs or quality.

As noted in the Monday post, COVID remains a problem locally, across the state and nationwide. Although the vaccination numbers continue to climb, so do confirmed COVID cases. On March 30 there 5,177 new confirmed cases, bringing the State total to 665,948 confirmed COVID cases. As noted in the Monday post, COVID remains a problem locally, across the state and nationwide. Although the vaccination numbers continue to climb, so do confirmed COVID cases. On March 30 there 5,177 new confirmed cases, bringing the State total to 665,948 confirmed COVID cases. Additionally, statewide unemployment rate was 5.2 percent in February and in Detroit the unemployment rate was 11.4 percent in January of 2021. So, the data on objective reality is entirely consistent with the issues that are at the top of residents’ list of concerns.

What Can Detroit Can Do for Its Citizens: Their View

The Wayne State University Center for Urban Studies worked with MDP Black Caucus to develop the 2021 Detroit Resident Survey. This survey, based upon a random sample of Detroit residents found that the top area of improvement citizens want is community and neighborhood improvement/blight reduction. The second most frequently sought improvement was a reduction in crime together with an increase in community safety. Overall, there were 18 general areas that survey respondents said the City of Detroit can do to help them and their household. The 621 respondents to the survey made 437 suggestions on how the City can be improved.

As noted, the most common suggestion on what Detroit can do for citizens is to improve its community and neighborhoods and remove blight. Thirteen percent of respondents, or 55 citizens, made this suggestion. Eleven percent of respondents, or 46 citizens, suggested reducing crime and increasing community safety.

Blight and neighborhood improvements have long been a concern in the City of Detroit and while work has been done over the last several years, clearly residents still have concerns–as do community leaders. Between 2014 and 2020 more than 15,000 homes in the City of Detroit were knocked down with $265 million in federal funding. There are about 22,000 vacant properties left in the City that need to be addressed; the recent passage of Detroit’s Proposal N states the $250 million bond will allow an additional 8,000 to be razed and 6,000 to be secured.

On behalf of the Gilbert Family Foundation and Rocket Community Foundation, Dan and Jennifer Gilbert pledged $500 million over the next 10 years toward improving the Detroit community. The first $15 million will go toward paying the property taxes of 20,000 low income homeowners in the City. How the remainder of the donation will be spent has yet to be determined, but it could go toward things like digital equity, home repairs, housing access and employment. It is agreed upon though that with the funding must come a long-term strategy.

A reduction in blight can also improve community safety, according to a study by Wayne State University criminologists Matthew Larson and Charles Klahm IV. Larson and Klahm looked at Detroit crime data in areas where nearly 9,400 blighted homes were demolished between 2010 to 2014. According to their study they found that such blight demolitions reduced violent and property crimes. The study found that for about every three demolitions block-groups experienced about a 1 percent reduction in crime.

With a host of suggestions on how the City of Detroit can improve life for its residents it should not be a surprise than on a scale of 1-10 2021 Detroit Resident Survey respondents ranked their satisfaction with City leadership at a 5.75. Respondents rated their satisfaction with Wayne County leadership at a 5.62, at 6.9 with the State of Michigan’s leadership and 5.35 with the leadership at the federal level.

Tomorrow, we will further dig into the concerns of Detroit citizens, highlighting specific household and community concerns.

What Biden Should Do for Detroit: The Citizens’ View

A lot of expectations come with being elected President of the United States, and the citizens of Detroit want President Joe Biden’s top priority to be continuing to navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the 2021 Detroit Resident Survey conducted by the Wayne State Center for Urban Studies between Jan. 15 and March 1, 2021, 39 percent of respondents said COVID-19 should be President Biden’s top issue. Respondents, all who are Detroit citizens, were asked to choose from a list of 10 priorities on what they believe should be the top. Of the 571 respondents to this question 225, or 39 percent, said it should be COVID-19. Livable wages, racism, access to affordable health care, police brutality and quality education were all separate priorities that each received 9 percent of the vote as to what Biden’s top priority should be.

As of March 28, 2021 an ABC News/Ipsos poll found that President Biden received a 72 percent national approval rating for his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, the same ABC News article states 75 percent of Americans back how the President is handling the distribution of COVID vaccines. In the State of Michigan 653,659 COVID-19 cases were confirmed as of March 27, 2021 and in Detroit 32,998 COVID cases have been confirmed. In terms of vaccine distribution, according to the State of Michigan, 18 percent of residents are fully vaccinated and 31 percent of residents have started the process. Furthermore, 9.5 percent of Detroit residents are fully vaccinated and 17.6 percent have started the process, according to the City of Detroit Health Department.

While vaccination numbers continue to rise in Detroit and the State of Michigan, so do COVID numbers. On March 26, 2021 there were 4,670 new cases in Michigan and a 10 percent positivity rate, the highest recorded since December 2020.

Aside from COVID infections and deaths, economic and education issues related to the disease loom too. In February of 2021 the Michigan unemployment rate was 5.2 percent and in Detroit the unemployment rate was 11.4 percent in January of 2021 (the most recent data at the local level). And, just as soon as schools began to open, several districts are again moving back to online learning in response to the uptick in COVID cases.

While Detroit citizens have opinions of what Biden’s top priorities as President should be they also expressed opinions on the following in the 2021 Detroit Resident Survey:

  • What they feel the state of leadership is at the federal, state and local level;
  • How Detroit officials can best serve their citizens;
  • What their top household and community concerns and problems are;
  • What the barriers to finding employment and building wealth are;

The responses to these issues will be further explored this week in additional blog posts.

All response data in this post and in upcoming posts are from the 2021 Detroit Resident Survey conducted by the Wayne State University Center for Urban Studies, with the assistance of the MDPBlack Caucus. The survey was based on a random sample of about 20,000 households whose information was purchased from a business marketing vendor. The households were distributed throughout Detroit and where available, the vendor provided landlines, mobile telephone numbers associated with each household. Survey interviewers reached 953 individuals, 678 of whom confirmed they were Detroit residents. The Survey Findings are based on weighted totals and statistics to achieve representative findings. Respondents received a chance to be randomly selected to receive one of 10 $50 visa gift cards.

Southeastern Michigan’s Moral Rural Counties Have Among Lowest Percentage of Adults with Bachelor’s, Masters Degrees

Understanding the educational attainment levels of a geographical location is important because it impacts employment rates, average income levels, job markets and other socioeconomic factors. Educational attainment is also dependent on several factors including, geography, family structure, transportation and access to educational opportunities. The majority of communities in Southeastern Michigan have 25 percent or more of their 25 years of age and older population with only a high diploma or equivalent. Furthermore, there are 14 communities in the region where 40 percent or more of that specific age population who had only attained a high school diploma or equivalent, according to 2019 data from the US Census Bureau. In Southeastern Michigan, Cottrelleville Township in St. Clair County had the highest percentage of residents 25 years of age or older with only a high school diploma at 48 percent. Exeter Township in Monroe County had the second highest percentage of residents with only a high school diploma at 44 percent. Both of these communities are outside of the inner-ring urban suburbs and are much less densely populated. There were several inner-ring suburbs though where a high school diploma was often the highest level of educational attainment. For example, in both Ecorse and Lincoln Park and 40 percent of the 25 years of age or older population only had a high school diploma or equivalent; in Hazel Park that percentage was 37 percent. In the City of Detroit 32 percent of  25 years of age or older population had only a high school diploma or equivalent. Pleasant Ridge had the lowest percentage of residents with only a high school diploma at 5 percent.

Just as Pleasant Ridge had the lowest percentage of residents 25 years of age or older with only a high school diploma it also had the highest percentage of residents in that age frame with a bachelor’s degree. In Pleasant Ridge 40 percent of the  25 years of age or older population had a bachelor’s degree; the same was true for Grosse Pointe Farms and Lake Angelus. Overall, Oakland and Washtenaw counties had the highest percentage of residents 25 years of age or older with a bachelor’s degree. While Cottrelleville Township in St. Clair County had the highest percentage of residents with only a high school diploma or equivalent, it did not have the lowest percentage of residents with a bachelor’s degree. Ecorse, Hamtramck and Highland Park all had populations 25 years of age or older where only 7 percent of the residents had a bachelor’s degree. In Detroit,  9 percent of the 25 years of age or older had a bachelor’s degree. While there was a concentration in Detroit and its direct neighbors with low college education attainment, this was also true for the more rural counties. Clay Township in St. Clair County had among the lowest percentage of residents  25 years of age or older with a bachelor’s degree at 9 percent, as did London and Luna townships. Several of the communities in St. Clair and Monroe counties had 15 percent or less of residents  25 years of age or older with a bachelor’s degree.

As one may expect, those with among the highest percentage of residents with a bachelor’s degree also had higher percentages of residents with a master’s degree. In Ann Arbor Township 55 percent of the 25 years of age or older population earned a master’s degree; in the City of Ann Arbor 44 percent had the same level of educational attainment. These were the highest percentages in the region of those who obtained a master’s degree. In the City of Detroit 6 percent of the 25 years of age or older population earned a master’s degree. In areas such as St. Clair and Monroe counties the percentage with a masters were mostly in the single digits; this was also true for many of the immediate inner-ring suburbs.

While there is a high percentage of residents 25 years of age or older with only a high school diploma Gov. Gretchen Whitmer recently unveiled a program that promises free community college tuition to residents 25 and older. This program is to make it easier for Michigan residents to earn a form of higher education. According to the State of Michigan, about 4.1 million of Michigan’s 10 million residents qualify for the program, which is called Michigan Reconnect. Furthermore, about 3 million of those who qualify are between the ages of 25-64, according to Census data.

Where are the Irish at in Southeastern Michigan?

Everyone acts as if they have the luck of the Irish on St. Patrick’s Day, but according to Census data those with that ancestral luck are in the minority. According to 2019 ancestral data, Livingston County had the highest percentage of residents with Irish ancestry at 14 percent, followed by St. Clair County with 13 percent of the population claiming Irish ancestry. Wayne County had the lowest percentage at 7 percent. A closer look at the region through Census Tract data shows that an area in Grosse Pointe had the highest percentage of those with Irish ancestry at 30 percent; other pockets with some of the highest percentages were near Ann Arbor, Port Huron, White Lake and Farmington Hills. Statewide, 11 percent of Michiganders reported Irish ancestry.

Understanding our ancestry is important, and the Census data not only shows breakdowns of origins from specific countries and regions, but also the percentages of those with single or multiple ancestral roots. Ancestry refers to one’s ethnic origin or heritage, or the place of birth of the person or the person’s parents or ancestors before their arrival in the United States. Throughout Southeastern Michigan each county had more than a third of its population report single ancestry data. Oakland County had the highest percentage of residents with a single ancestry at 53 percent, followed by Macomb County where 52 percent of the population reported a single ancestry of origin. Livingston County had the lowest percentage of residents with a single ancestry origin at 40 percent, conversely it had the highest percentage of multiple ancestry residents at 42 percent. Note that the percentages reported for multiple and single ancestry in the maps below do not add up to 100 percent, that is because the Census also accounts for those who do not report ancestry.

While the Irish are at the top of everyone’s minds this week, much of Michigan’s ancestry is comprised of those with German decent at 19 percent. Additionally, in Southeastern Michigan we have an enclave of those of Arab descent. While those with Arab roots make up 2 percent of Michigan’s population, in Wayne County they make up 6 percent of the population and in Macomb and Oakland counties they make up 3 percent of the populations.  When examining the data at the Census Tract level we see that the Dearborn-Dearborn Heights area has between 14-80 percent of the population (depending on the tract) with Arab roots. Other areas with high Arab ancestral roots are Hamtramck (up to 39 percent) and West Bloomfield (up to 25 percent), Bloomfield (up to 13 percent) and Sterling Heights (up to 15 percent).

Understanding a region’s ancestry helps bring historical knowledge on who helped grow the region, a community and even a neighborhood and its culture. As we continue to evolve as a society many of us still try to cling to our ancestral roots, showcasing positive traditions of the past. With migration amongst cities, states and countries being fluid we must also make way for new traditions and take time to understand the cultures of all those around us.

Economic Indicators: Unemployment Rates, Housing Costs Remain Higher than Pre-COVID

We are a year into the COVID pandemic, unemployment rates have peaked and then declined, but they are still substantially higher than a year ago. Average home prices have increased as demand for homes has increased. Broader consumption trends though, while they are faring better than nearly a year ago, have yet to fully recover to pre-pandemic levels. Below we show just how these various indicators have changed over the last year.

In December of 2020 the unemployment rates for the State of Michigan and for the City of Detroit continued to increase after declines following the initial unemployment spikes due to COVID-19. The State of Michigan reported an unemployment rate of 7.3 in December, a higher rate than what was reported in November, which was 6.3. For the City of Detroit, the unemployment rate for December of 2020 was 20.3, which is higher than the November rate of 18.7. The December unemployment data further highlights how the unemployment gap between the State and Detroit continues to grow wider as the COVID case numbers increased rapidly over the holidays.

In line with what was reported above, COVID impacted unemployment rates at the county level in Michigan as well. In December of 2020 each county in Southeastern Michigan had a significantly higher unemployment rate than the year prior. According to data from the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget, Wayne County experienced the largest increase at about 8 points. In December of 2020 Wayne County had an unemployment rate of 12.4 and in December of 2019 it was 4.5. Washtenaw County experienced the smallest increase at 1.5 points. In December of 2020 Washtenaw County had an unemployment rate of 3.6 and in December of 2019 it was 2.1. While there were overall unemployment increases, the differences in the unemployment percentages between each county is, at least in part, dependent on the type of jobs available in each county and the occupations of residents. For example, in Wayne County the top occupations are office and administrative support, production and sales and food service. In Washtenaw County the top occupations are office and administrative support, education instruction, health care practitioners and food service workers. Throughout much of the year some positions related to office and administrative support and food service have been considered non-essential or experienced higher layoff rates while those in health care and education have been at less risk of being unemployed.

The Bureau of Economic Analysis recently released data on the per capita personal income by county for 2019, showing that overall incomes in Southeastern Michigan did grow between 2018 and 2019. In 2019 Oakland County had the highest per capita personal income at $72,271 but it had the lowest percent change between 2018 and 2019 at 2.7 percent.  Wayne County had the lowest per capital personal income at $44,512 with the percent change from the year prior being 3.3 percent. St. Clair County had the lowest percent change in per capita income between 2018 and 2019 and 2.7 percent; its per capita personal income in 2019 was $45,662.

When examining personal income growth between 2017-18 and 2018-19 the percent change was lowest for the most recent year of data, as opposed to the growth from between 2017-18.

We have yet to know what the impact COVID will have on personal income for 2020, but the data below does show that growth was already beginning to slow down prior to the pandemic. That coupled with higher rates of unemployment, business closures and decreases in spending on goods and services may very well mean lower personal incomes for 2020.

The automobile industry continues to be a driving force in Michigan’s economy and the latest data on vehicle sales show that the number of auto sales for lightweight vehicles has been steadily increasing in recent months while light truck and car sales slightly declined in February of 2021. However, compared to a year ago, sales still remain below what they were. In February of 2021 auto sales for: sales of light weight vehicles were 16.5 million, compared to 16.8 million the year prior; light truck sales were 12.3 million compared to 12.5 million in February of 2020; car sales were 3.4 million, compared to 4.2 million the year prior.

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 services have yet to make it back to the pre-COVID consumption levels, but the consumption of durable and non-durable goods have risen. In January of 2021 $8,016 billion in services was consumed, $2,148 billion in goods was consumed and $3,206 billion in nondurable goods was consumed.

According to the Case-Shiller Home Price Index, the average price of single-family dwellings sold in Metro Detroit was $139,240 in November of 2020; this was $145 higher than the average family dwelling price in October. The November 2020 price was an increase of $11,770 from November of 2019 and $15,200 from November of 2018. So, just as unemployment rates remain higher than what they were a year ago so do average home prices. This is interesting though because with higher unemployment rates traditionally comes lower incomes and hesitation around the housing market. However, during the COVID-19 pandemic, as shown, the average price for a home has been increasing despite higher unemployment rates. Demand for existing homes has been up substantially across the nation over the last year