Report: Metro Detroit #1 for 'job sprawl'

Apr 19, 2013

Credit via University of Michigan/MLibrary

Detroit has the most “job sprawl” of any metropolitan area in the country, according to a new Brookings Institution report that looks at how jobs are distributed throughout metro regions.

The report found that 77 percent of metro Detroit’s jobs are more than 10 miles outside the city’s central business district. The nationwide average is 43 percent.

“Job losses in industries hit hardest by the downturn, including construction and manufacturing, helped check employment decentralization in the late 2000s,” the report found.

The report’s author, Brookings fellow Elizabeth Kneebone, says Detroit’s overall job sprawl picture also didn’t change too much from 2000-2010, the years the report covers.

“As Detroit shed employment overall, the share of jobs located in or near downtown actually held steady,” Kneebone says. “And the middle ring saw decline, while the share of jobs more than 10 miles away grew.”

The report found that Metro Detroit lost more than 475,000 jobs overall during that decade.

Of the area’s roughly 1.38 million jobs, only 7.3 percent are located in Detroit’s central business district. The “middle ring” that saw the most job loss, 3-10 miles from downtown, now contains 15.3 percent of the area’s jobs.

Kneebone says job sprawl can stress a region’s infrastructure, and it’s a particularly big problem for low income workers without many transit options.

However, Kneebone says that Metro Detroit’s job sprawl might not be quite as bad as the primary metric indicates. At least half the region’s jobs can be found in what Kneebone calls “high density places” outside the urban core.