Flint's Dramatic Shift: Manufacturing to Service
The chart above (click to enlarge) shows the manufacturing share of total employment in Michigan's 12 major metro areas in both 1990 and 2009 (data available here), and also for the state of Michigan and the entire U.S. What's most interesting is that despite the decline in the manufacturing job share in all 12 metro areas, the relative ranking of the 12 Michigan metro areas stayed almost exactly the same between 1990 and 2009, except for Flint, which fell from #2 in 1990 (30.5%) to #12 in 2009 (only 5.3%).
Holland, Battle Creek, Benton Harbor, Muskegon, Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo were in exactly the same place and Jackson and Saginaw switched places. Ann Arbor, Detroit and Lansing each move up or down one or two places, but Flint was the only Michigan metro to move up or down more than 2 places, and actually moved down by 10 full places (#2 to #12). Flint (at 5.3% manufacturing share) is now remarkably less of a manufacturing town that its neighbor Ann Arbor at 6.5%. As much as everybody thinks of Flint as a blue-collar, manufacturing town, it's gradually become a service-based economy (see a related discussion here on the Flint Expatriates blog).
There must be something pretty unique about Flint compared to the rest of Michigan's metro areas, to explain such a dramatic change in manufacturing employment relative to the rest of the state. Here are a few ideas, please feel free to add more (Walt G?):
1. Flint was more heavily dependent on just one major employer (GM) than the rest of the state, and as GM has reduced its workforce over the last twenty years it has affected Flint more than other Michigan cities.
2. Flint's reputation as being a militant union stronghold may have led to more GM plant closings and job losses here than elsewhere in the state?