Report: Not enough jobs in Detroit

Louis Aguilar
The Detroit News

Few Detroiters work in the city and, overall, only 53 percent of working-age residents of the city had any type of job in 2014, according to a new workforce study released Tuesday.

“Detroit’s Untapped Talent: Jobs and On-Ramps Needed” is the first of a two-part report about the state of Detroit’s labor force and job market. It is intended to help the city and the private sector find a way to overcome the challenges of Detroit’s labor market.

The study was initiated by JPMorgan Chase’s $100 million commitment to the city’s economic recovery. It was done in partnership with the nonprofit Corporation for a Skilled Workforce, which partners with government, business, and community leaders to connect workers with jobs.

Among the report’s findings:

Not enough jobs in Detroit: Few Detroiters work in the city because there are not enough suitable jobs. Only about 26 percent of jobs in Detroit are held by people who live in the city. Nearly 2 in 3 , or 64 percent, of Detroit workers commute to the suburbs. A large number of those who work in the suburbs are in the lowest wage bracket. That’s because there are very few entry-level job opportunities in the city limits, the study found.

Skills and education mismatch: While Detroit lacks a suitable number of private-sector jobs, many residents lack the necessary skill and education levels to qualify for the jobs that are available. More than 7 in 10, 71 percent, of Detroiters with a bachelor’s degree are employed, but only 13 percent of Detroiters have attained that level of education. More than half of Detroiters without high school diplomas — 55 percent — aren’t attached to the labor force.

Lower income, minority Detroiters face greatest challenges: The need to travel outside of the city for lower-skill jobs creates an excessive additional travel and child care expenses for the lowest income Detroiters. Furthermore, 61 percent of unemployed Detroiters ages 20 to 64 had incomes below the poverty line, underscoring the need for support services to help Detroiters achieve self-sufficiency. Additionally, African-American residents are more than twice as likely to be unemployed than white residents

“We are starting to see strong signs of progress in our efforts to reduce unemployment and provide Detroit residents with pathways to good jobs and careers,” Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan said in the report. Duggan has formed the Mayor’s Detroit Workforce Development Board to address the city’s labor challenge. “The tremendous work done by JPMorgan Chase and CSW for this report gives us an invaluable tool in supporting our new Workforce Development Board as it tackles the challenges ahead.”

The second part of the JP Morgan Chase report, which will be released soon, will review Detroit’s workforce system infrastructure and capacity and suggest areas for alignment and action.

The report was praised by William Jones Jr., CEO of Focus: HOPE, a workforce training center in Detroit. “It does a great job of framing the discussion for policymakers and practitioners as we work to develop more impactful ways of providing workforce solutions for both job seekers and employers, ” Jones said in a statement.

Chauncy Lennon, JPMorgan Chase’s Head of Workforce Initiatives, said the report could be a model for other cities as well. “We believe this workforce system map and data-driven approach can be a model for other cities to better understand their employment barriers and develop solutions to create job opportunities,” Lennon wrote in the report.

Twitter: LouisAguilar_DN