Profile: Workforce Trends

From 2010 to 2020, unemployment in the Detroit region and the US were nearly equal. While unemployment in the Detroit region continued to follow the direction of the national trend across a 20-year period, the 11 counties near Detroit experienced more unemployment than the country overall.

Chart of Unemployment Rate 2020

In 2009, the region’s unemployment rate peaked at 14.6% — quite higher than US unemployment rate of 9.3%. The unemployment rates of the Detroit region and the US converged in 2015. In 2019, the rate of unemployment fell to 4.2%, a level not seen since the early 2000s. The Detroit region and the US experienced a large spike in unemployment to 11.1% and 8.1% respectively in 2020 with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Chart of Total Enrollment 2019

Universities in the Detroit region saw declining enrollment figures over the past decade. In 2010, 494,870 students were enrolled in post-secondary across the region. By 2019, this figure fell to 349,090 students. Enrollment in the Detroit region has fallen more rapidly than the national trend. In 2019, US enrollment declined by just 0.8%. Meanwhile, enrollment in Detroit region schools fell by 3.9%.

Chart of Graduates Per Year 2019

The number of post-secondary graduates rose during the years following the Great Recession — climbing from 64,608 graduates in 2008 to 75,747 graduates in 2012. This uptrend in graduates was likely spurred on by people seeking an alternative to competing in a poor job market. As the economy continued its recovery, the number of annual graduates gradually declined. In 2019, just 67,520 students graduated from Detroit region colleges and universities.

Graduation rates in the Detroit region have declined more rapidly than the overall nation. In 2019, graduation rates in the Detroit region fell by 2.2%. Nationally, graduation rates grew by a modest 1.7%.