Detroit Economy: Top Industries, Biggest Employers, & Business Opportunities
If you're considering a move to Detroit, Michigan, it's useful to understand the city's cost of living in addition to the economic opportunities the city has to offer. Detroit's broader metro area has a population of nearly 6 million people and consists of a 10-county area. It is home to about 347,000 businesses and a workforce of 2.6 million people.
Detroit has long been known as the automobile capital of the world, but it is also the second-largest source of architectural and engineering jobs in the country. Downtown Detroit has recently seen a resurgence in companies moving their headquarters from the suburbs to downtown. Metro Detroit is among the top five financial centers in the U.S. and is an emerging leader in technology. If you'd like to learn more about Detroit's economy, read on.
Detroit Top Industries
Automobile manufacturing continues to reign as the top industry in Detroit. Despite having lost nearly 40% of its manufacturing jobs in the 1980s, the automotive industry remains the top economic driver for the city. Much of the manufacturing has left the country, but Detroit is home to all the engineering, administrative, and testing functions of the big three U.S. automakers.
The industry employs thousands of highly-trained workers. In addition, much of the world's suppliers of automotive parts are located in Detroit, as are a number of large advertising firms that do millions of dollars in business each year with the big automakers.
With all four of the major accounting firms headquartered there, Metro Detroit is among the top five financial centers in the country. Top employers include Quicken Loans, Ally Financial, Ford Motor Credit Company, Bank of America, and JP Morgan Chase.
Metro Detroit is the primary reason for the state's ranking as a leader in emerging technology, with jobs in life sciences, information technology and advanced manufacturing. Metro Detroit is also one of the leading healthcare economies, with a hospital sector that ranks fourth in the nation. The sector supports well over 245,000 jobs directly, with another 120,400 jobs from allied sectors.
Detroit also ranks as the country's number-one exporting region, the busiest commercial port, and the fourth-largest export market in the country. As such, it serves as a major hub for transportation and employment in aviation, rail, truck, and ship docking facilities.
Several major corporations are based in the city, including three Fortune 500 companies. Among them are General Motors, Quicken Loans, Little Caesars, and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. In addition, downtown is home to principal offices for Chrysler, Fifth Third Bank, Deloitte, PricewaterhouseCoopers, and Ernst & Young.
Top Industries in Detroit
- Information Technology
Top Employers in Detroit
Detroit's top employer is Ford Motor Co., headquartered in the suburb of Dearborn. One of the country's "big three" automakers, Ford sells automobiles, trucks and SUVs, as well as commercial vehicles. Although it struggled during the last recession, the company has since returned to profitability.
Ford sells millions of cars yearly and employs about 44,900 in the Detroit area. In 2019, Ford announced it was adding 3,000 jobs at manufacturing facilities there. The new ventures will focus on autonomous vehicle technology, hybrid and electric battery cells, as well as hybrid and electric versions of its F-150 truck.
The second largest employer in the Detroit area is another of the big three automakers— Fiat Chrysler. Fiat Chrysler has its headquarters in the suburb of Auburn Hills and employs 33,657 in the Detroit region. Although the company went through financial difficulties during the crisis of 2008-2010, the company survived and repaid its obligations to the government five years early. In 2019, Fiat Chrysler announced it was spending $4.5 billion to build the first new auto assembly plant in Detroit in almost three decades, adding 6,500 jobs.
Third of the top three Detroit employers is the largest of the big three automakers: General Motors. With global headquarters in Detroit, GM employs 32,353 in the Detroit area. The company designs, manufactures, markets, and distributes vehicles and vehicle parts. It also sells financial services. In early 2020, GM announced it was investing $2.2 billion in a Detroit plant where it plans to manufacture all-electric trucks and SUVs.
Top Employers in Detroit
- General Motors
- Henry Ford Health System
- American Axle & Manufacturing
- Ilitch Holdings
- Detroit Medical Center
- Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan
- DTE Energy
- Quicken Loans
- Arvin Innovation
- Ally Financial
Detroit Economy Facts and Figures
Detroit continues to be known as the automobile capital of the world, with the most of the U.S. auto industry headquartered there. Together, the big three automakers employ about 111,000 in the Detroit area.
While Detroit's economy remains closely tied to the automotive industry, the area is also the catalyst behind Michigan's national ranking as an emerging technology center for the life sciences, information technology and advanced manufacturing sectors. The city has kept Michigan in the top four nationally for research and development expenditures in the U.S.
Michigan repealed its business tax in 2011 and replaced it with a 6% corporate income tax, which substantially decreased taxes on businesses, helping Detroit to attract major corporations. This helped propel the metro area to the second-largest source of architectural and engineering jobs in the U.S.
The sales tax rate in Detroit is 6%, compared to the national average of 7.3%. The income tax rate in Detroit is 6.8%, which is higher than the U.S. average of 4.6%.
In large part because of its ties to the ups and downs of the automotive industry and the recent recessions the country has experienced, Detroit has higher unemployment than the rest of the country. In January 2010, in the midst of the economic crisis, Detroit's unemployment rate was 15.6% before economic recovery. The city started 2020 with an unemployment rate of 4.4%.
Future job growth over the next decade is expected to be 29.3%, compared to the U.S. average of 33.5%.
The median household income in Detroit is about $31,283, a 3% increase from the previous year. Detroit metro has a median home value of $188,420, including single family homes and condos.
Getting Down to Business in Detroit
Although the city's auto industry was hit hard by the last recession, automakers bounced back and are increasingly focusing on electric and autonomous vehicle advancements. The city is making a name for itself in several emerging technology fields.
Detroit's economic struggles during the past decade have not deterred real estate developers. Downtown Detroit has seen a resurgence in new developments, headquarter relocations to downtown and expansions of existing facilities. The Detroit metro has become a national leader in engineering and architectural jobs.
Detroit's motto is "Speramus meliora; resurget cineribus," which translates to "We hope for better things; it shall arise from the ashes." While Detroit and its economy have had some rough times, watching the city grow over the past decade is a sure sign that better things are arriving with every passing day.