After closing plants and shrinking their blue-collar work force, Detroit’s troubled Big Three are cutting white-collar jobs in their hometown at an unprecedented pace — more than 15,000 in the last year, with more to come.
Unlike union workers laid off from idled factories, salaried workers have no safety net of health care or guaranteed income for a year. At best, it’s a small severance or buyout, and a voucher for a discount on one of the hundreds of thousands of unsold cars that G.M. or Chrysler has sitting in inventory.
White-collar workers who walk out of the headquarters of the auto companies face few prospects in the Michigan economy. And with G.M. and Chrysler surviving on federal loans, facing a deadline Tuesday to submit new and broader restructuring plans to the government, the outlook grows only more bleak.
The market for the skills of auto engineers or designers in the prime of their careers has evaporated, with no hope in sight for a turnaround. Moving to another city is hardly an option when there are so few buyers for the suburban homes that would have to be sold first.
“I know it’s not great everywhere, but this is probably the worst place to find a job,” said Doug Zupan, a designer who took a buyout in November after working at Chrysler for six years. He was one of 5,000 salaried workers who accepted a buyout the day before Thanksgiving from his job at the Chrysler Technical Center in Auburn Hills, Mich.
Mr. Zupan, a 35-year-old father of three preschool-age children, said he was stunned by the sudden and rapid decline in an industry suffering through its worst sales in more than 25 years. “I am going to do my best to get out of the auto industry,” he said.
It's rough for everybody right now. But to go-in a matter of half a year or less-from what you think is a relatively stable and prosperous job with career potential, to facing the possibility of having to move so as to be able to scrape up any kind of job somewhere else, is a psychologically and economically devastating blow.