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.