Recently, the Detroit Free Press published an article linking to WalletHub’s “2018 Best Places to Find a Job” study, which alleged that Detroit was the nation’s second worst place to find a job. This erroneous conclusion was drawn using a number of socio-economic and job market metrics to rank 182 cities across America.
Five or 10 years ago, during the daily “terrible news about Detroit” era, one could be forgiven for overlooking an article like this, chalking it up to yet another negative review of the city. But now, at a time when the New York Times is asking if Detroit is “the most exciting city in America,” it is hard to miss, as it is inconsistent with a city undergoing significant transformation.
The WalletHub study has flaws that make its findings questionable, especially for Detroiters. The basis of the study was to rank cities for job seekers. In other words, if you live in San Francisco and want to move to Detroit, what is the job market like? This is reflected in their very first metric, referred to as (most or fewest) “job opportunities,” a number calculated as online job openings divided by labor force minus the unemployment rate. The basic science behind this metric assumes that every unemployed individual in Detroit is available for one of the current job openings in Detroit, thus (in this case) leaving very few openings for those individuals relocating.
The most recent data available (November 2017) indicates that the city of Detroit has a 7.8 percent unemployment rate. This means that within the calculated metric in the WalletHub study, the residents of Detroit are “taking” the available job opportunities and leaving few for incomers. As a result, from a Detroit resident’s perspective, there may, in fact, be many available jobs, a verifiable fact when looking at the number of online job postings in the city during the same period of November 2017 (8,603 job postings).
Every posting does not necessarily correspond to an actual job, but when using WalletHub’s “job opportunities” metric as an indicator for employer demand, it is clear that since 2007, the number of postings in the city of Detroit has been on the rise, making Detroit a great place to find a job, especially if you are a Detroiter.
Additionally, if you are a Detroiter, you know that the job market is larger than just the city. Many individuals work in Detroit but live elsewhere, or live in the city but work outside of it. Unfortunately, the WalletHub study used geographies of only city propers to characterize each area. Southeast Michigan has always been a commuter area. The Workforce Intelligence Network’s (WIN) 2016 Labor Shed report, which analyzes commuting patterns in the city of Detroit, showed that it is not uncommon for workers to commute for work, with nearly two-thirds (65.9 percent) of the city’s residents traveling outside of the city for their jobs. Excluding the “greater Detroit” area when considering the capacity of Detroit to provide to jobs is an unforgiveable oversight that affects this area more profoundly than some of the other cities in this study, and weakens the conclusion that Detroit is not ideal for job seekers.
Types of jobs available
For Detroiters seeking employment, what type of work is available? For the calendar year 2017, data on online job postings from Burning Glass Technologies (the primary data source WIN uses for its labor market reports) shows that there are opportunities available throughout the city requiring a wide variety of education levels. In 2017, 41 percent of online postings in the city of Detroit that specified an educational requirement were available to job seekers with an associate degree or less education. Many of these jobs were in the high-demand fields, such as health care. Advertisements for registered nurses, pharmacy technicians and surgical technicians topped the list for the largest number of job postings in the city of Detroit. When expanding the search area to include Oakland, Wayne, and Macomb counties, then the postings requiring an associate’s degree or less include many occupations in the skilled trades field, such as CNC programmers, CNC operators and machinists.
For those individuals with a bachelor’s degree or higher, the city of Detroit posted many opportunities in 2017 for financial analysts, electrical engineers and software engineers. Expanding the search area to Oakland, Wayne and Macomb counties showed many more of the same opportunities, in addition to software developers, manufacturing engineers and mechanical engineers.
The Detroit region is replete with job opportunities and has been for some time. In fact, the greatest takeaway for the positions that are available within the region is that overall, across all three counties and just about any level of education, employers are seeking workers with good communication, problem solving and organizational skills. Undoubtedly, Detroiters continue to defend the region from those who do not know recognize the progress made in the area that has made this great city a spectacular for those who call it home.
For more research and data analysis from the Workforce Intelligence Network (WIN) including job posting information for southeast Michigan as well as the city of Detroit, check out WIN’s labor market reports.
Research and writing for this blog post was a collaborative effort between blog author Michele Economou Ureste, executive director at WIN, and Michelle Wein, senior manager of research at WIN.