People ask me why I’m still living in Michigan. After yesterday’s news of the December jobless rate hitting 10.6%, I am starting to wonder. This means that our “great” state has the dubious distinction of having the highest unemployment rate in the entire country. December’s figure is also the worst recorded unemployment statistic seen in this state since 1984. Michigan is only 6.3% away from the all-time record of 16.9%, set in 1982.
But wait! That’s not the worst of it. This year’s projected job loss is estimated at 108,000 additional positions being reduced, with the 2010 projection set at 24,000 more on the unemployment rolls. That’s in this state alone, not in the region or country. I have a feeling these are conservative estimates. That’s a lot of jobs, people. Despite the fact that some small companies have set up shop (ePrize in Pleasant Ridge), some larger ones have opened satellite work sites (Google in Ann Arbor), and that 25 motion pictures have been shot here since April, these measly efforts are doing little to bolster our struggling economy. There's talk of building plants to make batteries for hybrid and electric cars, but talk is cheap. Action costs a lot more.
There are other states and other cities feeling the pinch, but let’s face it, they are not Michigan nor are they Detroit. There’s still hope in California and Colorado, where my relatives live, and times are not yet getting hardscrabble tough. There’s still hope in New York, where the money is, and in Indiana, where they appear to know what to do with theirs. There’s hope in the south, where a good friend of mine has been lobbying us to move for years.
Here, there is little hope. We are in a collective, permanent state of holding our breath, waiting for the next axe to drop and the next head to roll. State revenue is on the decline, but employment by the state is on the increase, sounding a potential house of cards coming to a fluttery end. Except for the auto industry, the next biggest employer in Michigan is Michigan, and with a massive health care and retirement obligation that puts the Big Three’s to shame. Not only is the birth rate falling, people are moving out of here in droves. That joke about the last person out of Michigan, please turn out the lights, is not that funny anymore. Here, the financial crisis has been percolating since 2005. According to my handy-dandy office spreadsheet, our modest business made a 3% gain that year, but the following years, the figures were all in the red, minus 6%, then 11%, and in 2008, 15% down.
Having to endure a punitive 22% business tax (no reason, just because) on top of the regular income tax rubs salt on the wound. Our governor, Jennifer Granholm, crying for retraining for displaced autoworkers is a joke. Retraining, for what? As far as I can see, there’s not one industry in this state clamoring for more workers. Perhaps Governor Jen is talking about retraining people so they can go somewhere else to find a job. Things are so bad that my two one-time high school helpers were overjoyed to have a part time job to come back to during their college Christmas break. They are each counting on summer employment that I can’t promise.
As witnessed by last December’s Congressional hearing regarding the Big Three’s bid for bridge loans, it’s apparent that the rest of the country thinks so little of our Mitten State, our elected officials thought it was okay to kick these CEOs around. While I was leery of the ‘stimulus’ packages given to the banks and insurance companies (did they miss anyone else? Oh, yes, me.), and I’m no fan of the automakers or their union, a part of me was yelling at the CSPAN broadcast. Instead of a cohesive, well-thought-out presentation, the Big Three head honchos looked like a trio of idiots. What made it worse was that they were being dressed down by people guilty of the same greed and lack of business sense.