BIG THREE

Detroit's White-Collar Slump

When assembly-line jobs with Detroit automakers began to decline, Michigan tried to offset them by adding "knowledge" workers to its economy. But in recent years, the Big Three have aggressively cut these jobs, too—30,000 white-collar positions from their North American offices, almost all in Michigan, vanished between the end of 2006 and June. The state's unemployment rate is now 15.2%. While these midcareer professionals are doing OK thanks to generous severance packages, many feel stuck, unable to find jobs in Michigan, but unwilling to pack up their families and move somewhere else. Labor-market economists say these skilled workers' specialized expertise, highly valued in their former posts, is a tough sell anywhere else. "Even if you tell people you'll work for free," says an ex-Chrysler employee with a new consulting business, many companies "don't even want to talk to you."