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The New Economy

Detroit leads metro areas with record 17 percent unemployment rate

Detroit has the highest unemployment rate of any major US metro area.

By / September 30, 2009

From left: Jamal Randle, Loren Cowling, and Dave Jackson fill out applications for positions at a new bar and restaurant in Detroit. Unemployment in the metro area hit a record 17 percent in August, the US Department of Labor reported Wednesday.

Paul Sancya/AP

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What a difference a year makes! Last August, metropolitan areas like Modesto, Calif., Daytona Beach, Fla., and Rocky Mount, N.C., had worse unemployment than Detroit.

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Today, Motor City is the one that's sputtering. Its 17 percent unemployment rate in August is a record for the metro area in 26 years of federal recordkeeping. It's also the highest rate of any US metropolitan area with at least 1 million residents, the US Department of Labor reported Wednesday.

In a single year, metro Detroit (which includes Warren and Livonia, Mich.) also saw the biggest jobless rate increase – 7.9 percentage points – of any metro area in the United States.

Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario, Calif., had the second-highest unemployment rate in August among major metro areas (14.5 percent). Las Vegas-Paradise, Nev., was No. 3 at 13.4 percent. Just over a third of America's 372 metro areas now have an unemployment rate of 10 percent or more.

The downturn in the auto industry is, of course, behind Michigan's economic troubles. One (very, very) slight silver lining could be the completed "cash for clunkers" program has cleared out so much inventory that factories may rev up a bit to restock showrooms.

But the history of the auto industry is that those jobs are very slow to come back — if they come back at all. In the mean time, employment in metro Detroit is back to levels unseen since 1984.

For an AP interview with a laid-off auto worker, check out the video below.

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