Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Miserable Michigan- Unemployment and Automobiles

A good college friend of mine recently brought to my attention that two cities in Michigan, Detroit and Flint, are in the top ten for the most miserable cities in the USA. I told her this really didn't surprise me and when she asked why, I found the answer was really quite complex and interesting. So this is my attempt to help share what I've learned about Michigan from the Michiganders who live here with those of you who may not be familiar with Michigan.


Southeastern Michigan's industry is mainly run by the big three American automobile companies: General Motors, Ford, and Chevrolet. Automobiles are HUGE here! Everyone works for the automobile industry and for the most part everyone owns multiple American cars and trucks. Michiganders like to give me a hard time when they find out that I drove a 1992 Toyota Tercel in high school (see picture below), you know, because it's a foreign car!! Anyway, when the automobile industry tanked because people weren't buying cars it left a lot of people without jobs. Now I'm not really up to date or informative with all the politics, but I know the words "Obama" and "bailing out the automobile industry" is talked about a lot around here, but I really haven't been following it. Here's an article explains it better than me.

My first car.. yes it was foreign, yes it was a five speed, yes it was red, and yes it was super fun to drive! 
The way I've been told Michigan used to work (30+ years ago) was that when you went to high school you had the option to take multiple automobile classes and could basically graduate with a technical license to work for the big three in the automobile industry. A lot of people took this opportunity because you could make $60,000+ a year with benefits with just a high school diploma and the industry was booming. EVERYONE worked for the automobile companies. In fact, I've been told teachers left their profession to go work for one of the big three because the pay and benefits were so much better.

However, when the recession started people started losing their jobs and did not have another skill or education to fall back on. So finding other jobs became difficult especially with the numerous amounts of people looking for work. Plus, there really isn't another large industry in southeastern Michigan to fall back on. Yes, there are still the foreign car factories in Michigan that some people work at, but it becomes a pride thing  for a lot of people. Michiganders frown on you if you work for a foreign company even though it is technically still an American job.   

The other day someone was telling me how the unemployment rates just came out for Detroit (42%) and Port Huron (36%), which includes people who have just plain stopped looking work because there isn't work around here. (sorry I don't have sources for those.. I heard them word of mouth). As a result everyone who can do so is leaving Michigan especially young people to go where the jobs are found. That being said, I will say high unemployment its mostly a southeastern Michigan problem or right in the heart of the area I live. The western side of the state has other industries so they aren't suffering AS much as the east.

One of the big results from this is that you get a lot of crime in areas of high unemployment. People don't have a lot to do and if they can't leave the area because they can't afford to move then they are stuck in high unemployment. It's a pretty awful situation to be in, but this is where you will start seeing crime pop up. I'd imagine it's probably true for other areas as well, but a lot of crime especially in Port Huron is related to drugs. 

My friend also asked me "what do you do to help solve a situation like this." The only thing I can really think of is putting people back to work. People want to work and they are happy to work they just NEED work.  In any case, I'd be curious to hear what my readers think and people who have more knowledge in that area since I'm not an expert.

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