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State of the Region: Unemployment on Par with National Average for First Time in Decade; Education Lags Behind Peer Regions

For the first time in over a decade, the Detroit region’s unemployment rate is on par with the national average, according to data provided in the Detroit Regional Chamber’s fourth annual State of the Region report. The finding was among several economic indicators released on Wednesday, Nov. 1 to nearly 400 attendees at a luncheon at Cobo Center. The report, which provides an economic overview of the 11-county region and benchmarks it against nine peer regions and the national average, highlights how the region is moving in the right direction, as well as the areas where improvement is still needed.

Chamber President and CEO Sandy Baruah provided an analysis of the data. Some key highlights include:

  • For the fourth straight year, the Detroit region outpaced the national average in private sector job growth at 2 percent while the national rate was 1.9 percent.
  • Last year, the average median home value was up 6.4 percent and an impressive 36 percent from 2011, leading peer regions in five-year growth.
  • In 2016, the state had a banner year for foreign direct investment, with 76 projects, totaling more than $2 billion and adding more than 7,600 jobs.

Educational attainment continues to be a big challenge for the region, remaining .5 percent below the national average. New to the report this year is the community well-being index, which ranks Detroit in the bottom quintile with a rank of 158 out of 189 communities. The Chamber, through its Forward Detroit initiatives, is committed to strengthening the region’s competitive advantages and making meaningful progress to address these challenges.

In his presentation, Baruah expressed the importance of continuing to work together as a region, praising the collaborative effort in Amazon’s HQ2 proposal for Detroit. After the presentation, a panel of regional leaders reacted to the data and provided their personal perspective on the current state of the regional economy. Panelists included Joseph Anderson Jr., chairman and CEO of TAG Holdings LLC; Daniel Howes, columnist and associate business editor of The Detroit News; Ellen Hughes-Cromwick, interim associate director of social science and policy at The University of Michigan’s Energy Institute; and Paul Traub, senior business economist for the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago – Detroit Branch. The panel was moderated by Devin Scillian, anchor for WDIV-TV 4.

Key takeaways from the panelists include:

  • In the bid for Amazon’s HQ2, Detroit can play to its strengths, including a vibrant educational base, access to the automotive industry, and proximity to Canada.
  • Regional collaboration is critical to attracting global firms to the region.
  • Regional leaders must leverage all resources to prevent place-based development and ensure equitable, inclusive growth.
  • Closing the talent gap in Southeast Michigan requires more investment at the state level in apprenticeship programs.
  • The modern realities of technology-fueled innovation and a growing talent gap present a significant challenge for companies in Southeast Michigan.
  • The timeline for mass adoption of automated vehicles on roadways is much longer than many believe and is driven by consumer demand and the testing, regulation and adoption of innovative technology, which can be a lengthy process.
  • Just like crisis was a precursor of change for the automotive industry and the city of Detroit, it will take a crisis to fix Michigan’s education system.

Prior to the luncheon, a private reception was held for investors, where the Forward Detroit Annual Report was released. Investors will also be mailed a copy of the report.

Download the full State of the Region and Forward Detroit Annual Report.