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Push to Get Metro Detroit Back to Work Comes as Many Face End of Jobless Pay

The HIRE DETROIT! initiative to get 25,000 workers back on the payroll announced two weeks before extended unemployment benefits are set to expire for 44,000 residents of the state.

The new HIRE DETROIT! initiative aims to get Detroit, which has a 16 percent unemployment rate, back to work. Patch file photo
The new HIRE DETROIT! initiative aims to get Detroit, which has a 16 percent unemployment rate, back to work. Patch file photo

A new initiative aims to get 25,000 Michiganders back to work before the end of 2014 as the metro Detroit area continues to struggle under a crushing 16 percent unemployment rate.

Under the HIRE DETROIT! initiative announced Thursday, metro employers are being asked to hire at least one unemployed worker before the end of 2014, the Detroit Free Press reports.

The hiring initiative couldn’t come at a better time for jobless Detroit residents, some of whom may lose their unemployment compensation benefits right after Christmas. Emergency unemployment benefits, approved at the height of the recession, are set to expire Dec. 28.

Without a one-year extension – and that looks doubtful as House Democrats failed Thursday in a last-ditch effort to get the $26 billion extension before Congress recesses for the year – 44,000 Michiganders will immediately lose their benefits.

Even with a one-year extension, which Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid said would be the first issue Congress takes up after the holiday recess, another 145,000 Michigan residents would lose their benefits at the end of 2014.

Congressman Sander Levin, D-Royal Oak said “in human and economic terms, this Congress has a mandate to extend federal unemployment insurance,” but extension is far from certain.

Without the extension, 4.9 million people nationwide – 1.3 million by the end of the year – would be off the unemployment compensation roles.

The Detroit News reported that during a conference call with reporters, University of Michigan Economist Betsey Stevenson, a member of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, said the long-time unemployment rate is 2.6 percent, more than double ‘any other time that we have allowed benefits to end.”

Manufacturing's 'Major League Comeback'

U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez and U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan attended the launch event as part of a trip to Michigan to promote the Obama administration’s local revitalization programs.

They said Michigan has showed a  “spirit of stick-to-it-ivness” throughout the persistent recession. Detroit was one of the metropolitan areas hit hardest by the recession, and they said the Obama administration is invested in getting Detroit back to work.

By some estimates, Detroit’s actual unemployment rate hovered around 50 percent at the height of the recession, even though the Bureau of Labor Statistics officially put the figure much lower. The government figures didn’t include part-time workers looking for part-time jobs and job hunters who abandoned their search altogether, and including those numbers made the situation in the Detroit metro more alarming.

Perez said manufacturing is enjoying a “major league comeback” and the Detroit metro is poised to become part of that success.

“Whoever said manufacturing is dead hasn’t been to this college, to this region,” she said after touring the Michigan Technical Education Center in at the Macomb Community College’s Warren campus, where HIRE DETROIT! initiative was launched.

The Michigan Technical Education center is the lead recipient of a nearly $25 million federal grant funding partnerships between the state’s eight community colleges and  employers to train workers for jobs that are in demand. That goal of that effort is to connect 2,500 workers with jobs over the next four years.

It’s having some success. A graduate of the program who helped make ends meet with a job as a casino valet after losing his union job when his company closed is now an advanced engineer at Gonzalez Production Systems in Madison Heights. It was one of three job offers Dave Myles, 48, of Roseville said he received immediately after completing the program in 2011.

The HIRE DETROIT! initiative was developed by Detroit Employment Solutions Corp., a division of the Michigan WORKS program,  in partnership with metro Detroit employers, community and faith-based organizations, and the Detroit-based training and employment programs, according to the DESC web site.

Do you buy into the HIRE DETROIT! initiative? Tell us why or why not in the comments.

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