I love charts Seriously, well-presented data makes the world much easier to understand. This page contains charts (courtesy of Google) generated from publicly available data sets. I've attempted to use consistent coloring across the charts: black for US data, blue for Michigan, red for the Detroit Metropolitan Statistical Area and similar regional measures, green for Wayne County (which defines the Detroit-Livonia-Dearborn Metropolitan Division), and orange (why not?) for Detroit proper.
The following data comes from the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Midwest Information Office in Chicago. The data set contains unadjusted annual data. The data uses covers two different areas, the MSA and Wayne County.
As you can see, the Metro Detroit region as a whole saw some meaningful growth between 1983 and 1999: 16% in labor force, and 33% in employment. However, little of this occurred in Wayne County, which is somewhat surprising considering the extensive development that has occurred, including the casinos, new housing, the new sports arenas, and the move of GM headquarters into town. However, it appears that the last several years have brought a downturn to both the county and the broader Metro Detroit area; Metro Detroit is back to about where it was in 1993-94, while Wayne County is in worse shape than it was in 1990. Essentially, from 1990 to 1999 employment grew in Wayne at about half the rate of the entire Metro region, and since 1999 employment has declined in the county at about the same rate as the entire Metro region. Hardly seems fair, does it? Annoyingly, though, this doesn't give much insight into the conditions in Detroit itself.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics also compiles the Consumer Price Index, which is a standard measure of the cumulative effect of inflation over time. In addition to the national CPI (which is calculated for urban consumers), they generate separate datasets for specific urban areas, including the Detroit-Ann Arbor-Flint area.
As you can see, Detroit's price level is typically lower than that of the rest of the country by a couple cents on the dollar. In general annual price level changes for Detroit mirror changes at the national level.
The Census Bureau's American Community Survey extends the decennial census, provides a variety of annual data at the city, county and state level running back to 2000. Among other things, this includes median household income, as can be seen below.
Not surprisingly, Detroit, and thus Wayne County, run considerably below the state standard. And as one might expect given the decline in employment in the region, Detroit has taken a major hit in the last few years, while Wayne County largely mirrored the decline in the state as a whole. However, the ability to compare Detroit to Wayne County makes it clear how distinct the city is from the larger Metropolitan Division used in federal reporting.