The bankruptcy of Detroit on Thursday was a raw and discordant moment here, underscoring how dramatically the fortunes of the nation’s auto industry and the city with which it is synonymous have diverged.
As automakers have claimed record sales and politicians have boasted about the rescue of Detroit, the real Detroit has suffered. The Big Three — two of them bailed out by taxpayers — employ fewer people and pay them less, leading to a better business model but far less value to the city’s people.
Detroit has a 16 percent unemployment rate, and Michigan Works! was able to place only 2,300 workers into positions last year, a tiny fraction of those who walked through its doors seeking help. Many of those people can’t read at an eighth-grade level, the basic threshold for employment in the city.
As Detroiters from all walks of life — the unemployed, the retired, the working — said in interviews Friday, Detroit’s bankruptcy could offer a fresh start. But, they say, it also raises the devastating possibility of a permanent financial stigma and could undermine one of the few areas of relatively stable employment in this city — government jobs — with pensions and benefits now at risk.