Saturday, March 7, 2009

Murder by Numbers

With unemployment levels climbing, it seems the rest of the country is catching on to a reality that Flint residents figured out a long time ago.

Peter S. Goodman and Jack Healy of The New York Times report:

The unemployment rate surged to 8.1 percent, from 7.6 percent in January, its highest level in a quarter-century. In key industries — manufacturing, financial services and retail — layoffs have accelerated so quickly in recent months as to suggest that many companies are abandoning whole areas of business.

“These jobs aren’t coming back,” said John E. Silvia, chief economist at Wachovia in Charlotte, N.C. “A lot of production either isn’t going to happen at all, or it’s going to happen somewhere other than the United States. There are going to be fewer stores, fewer factories, fewer financial services operations. Firms are making strategic decisions that they don’t want to be in their businesses.”
Manufacturing losses are bad enough, but many workers settled for retail jobs when their factory work disappeared. Now retail is drying up? Not good.

The Times also provides a depressing county-by-county breakdown of unemployment numbers
across the nation. The numbers are bad in Genesee (12.3%) and Wayne (11.7%), but you have to go Up North to get the catastropic percentages: Presque Isle (20.1%), Cheboygan (18.4%), Baraga (20.6%), and Ontonagon (17.2%). But keep in mind you aren't counted as unemployed when you've given up hope of a job and stopped looking. Genesee County's real unemployment rate is easily over 20 percent.

In California, some of my journalism students have been conducting brief interviews with people about how the recession is affecting them and their families. They've also asked students how much debt they'll have at graduation and how they plan to pay it off. The profiles aren't exactly uplifting:

Name: Nick Arb
Major: Marketing
Year: 2010
Debt: $50,000 and Rising
Deep thoughts on debt: "I have to start paying back six months after I graduate, so I need to find a job and live within my means and not necessarily put a whole lot away. Just pay off the debt as soon as possible. I'm applying for internships this summer and I'm going for the same position as grad students, so I know when I graduate, with or without an MBA I'm going to be going against people with better degrees and more qualifications. I'd like to (pay it off) within 15 years of graduation, hopefully less. The sooner the better. I know there will be something out there. It might not necessarily be your dream job, but you gotta get paid."


  1. The sad thing about all this is that the kid with the 50K+ student loan is going to be stuck on the stick for the whole thing. No breaks, no abatements, and while he can get delays he'll be responsible for the interest from it as well.

  2. there's a lot sadder stories going on out there. the numbers today said 1 in 50 children are homeless in this country. when is dc going to quit the bs and call this a Depression? He's young, has his health-I'll presume, has family that can help, and most importante-he has drive. I'd be more inclined to pity a 40-50yr old professional downsized, than a kid. sorry, but not sorry Godozo.


Thanks for commenting. I moderate comments, so it may take a while for your comment to appear. You might enjoy my book about Flint called "Teardown: Memoir of a Vanishing City," a Michigan Notable Book for 2014 and a finalist for the 33rd Annual Northern California Book Award for Creative NonFiction. Filmmaker Michael Moore described Teardown as "a brilliant chronicle of the Mad Maxization of a once-great American city." More information about Teardown is available at