Detroit’s resurgence is an incredible story. Hopefully, we can make sure everyone plays a part in it.

There has been momentous progress, especially in the decade since the Superbowl came to town, but outside of signature developments and some truly impressive projects, most of the city hasn’t felt the comeback.

A recent J.P. Morgan Chase study outlined the challenges, but frankly, it’s TL;DR (too long, didn’t read) for most folks. So we dived in and brought out the highlights.

Here are five facts you should know the next time you’re wondering why many Detroiters aren’t feeling the comeback. Here’s a clue: It all starts with a job.


1. Almost half of Detroit residents have not had any work in the last 12 months

It may seem hard to believe, but almost half of Detroiters aged 16-64 (47%) have not had any employment in the last twelve months. That’s 168,000 people not working. To give you an idea, Detroit would need almost 13 more companies the size of Quicken Loans (~13,000 employees) to fill that gap.


2. There are only 3.7 jobs for every 10 Detroit residents in the city

…and most of those jobs located in the city, about 3 of 4 are held by suburbanites. By contrast, comparable sized cities like Cleveland and Atlanta have 11.8 jobs and 18.3 jobs per resident, respectively.


3. Many entry level jobs are in the suburbs, and owning a car is insanely expensive in Detroit

Car insurance here is among the highest in the nation, so owning a car in the city is very expensive. Mix that with the history of a lack of investment and cooperation when it comes to mass transit has made it very difficult for poorer residents to even get to a job when they land one. 48 percent of Detroit residents live 10 or more miles from their job.

Image of a blocked off slide at Spain Elementary in Detroit.

4. Detroit’s education system is a disaster

The education system in Detroit (DPS and charters both have low marks) is producing a reported 47% functional illiteracy rate in the city, and when it comes to Detroit residents, only 13% have a Bachelor’s degree. So most can’t even qualify for many higher paying jobs. Adult literacy programs in the city are consistently seeing customers that will need 12 to 36 months of education to get their GED (High school diploma equivalent) to get people to ninth grade levels (enough for an entry level job) or tenth (enough for community college).


5. A significant percentage of working Detroiters are still in poverty

18.5% of employed Detroiters still lived below the poverty line, and 31% of that group of working poor Detroiters worked full time, which is a frustrating situation to be in.

Waxing a little poetic here, if you think about the noise created around the recent investments in downtown in midtown, they’re only a drop in the bucket needed to get Detroiters back to work.

And that’s what Detroiters really need. Jobs.

The numbers aren’t insurmountable at all (neighboring Oakland County added 97,000 jobs since 2010, according to their information), but it’ll take work on multiple fronts to ensure there is opportunity for all of Detroit. There are programs – like the Detroit Employment Solutions Corporation and Grow Detroit’s Young Talent, as well as many other initiatives – that are starting to make a dent, but there’s a long road ahead.

But if we don’t do this trinity of work that is improving mass transit, education, and creating jobs, we will be permanently on a path to two Detroits. And that’s not the kind of resurgence anybody wants.

What to know and where to go on the Daily Detroit Podcast