Poor Michigan. Literally.

The Great Lakes State was suffering through its own mini-recession long before the rest of the country hit a downturn, thanks to a declining industrial base in general, and hard times at Detroit's automakers in particular. Now a report from Michigan State University finds that from 2006 through 2008, the state lost $1.9 billion in economic activity and another $2.5 billion in home equity value.

The MSU report notes that Michigan was one of only two states to lose population during the period, as residents flee in search of job opportunities. The other state was Rhode Island, which lost about 2,000 residents. Michigan lost 80,000. According to a report from the Pew Center on the States, Michigan will probably have lost a million jobs over the decade, with more than a quarter of those losses coming from the auto industry.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics puts Michigan's unemployment rate at a nation-leading 15.1% for October. And the Pew report figures that as younger people continue to leave in search of jobs, the state's average age will continue to increase while its relative wealth will continue to decline.

What's the solution for Michigan? "Cash for Clunkers" offered a temporary boost, but now the auto industry itself is back to looking like a rusty old jalopy that's seen too many hard Michigan winters. We've heard some encouraging news about Ford (NYSE:F) lately, but Chrysler continues to sputter, and GM just said goodbye to its CEO after the board argued that change wasn't coming fast enough.

Is the auto industry a non-starter? Does Michigan need to refocus its industrial base in other areas? Let us know what you think in the comments box below.

Fool online editor Adrian Rush is a native Michiganian (hence the "Mitten" in his TMF name) who had to leave to find work. He has no position in any of the companies mentioned here. Try out any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. The Fool's disclosure policy prefers the term "Michigander."