Metu has been an important market of the coffee trade, with several foreigners residing in the town as early as the 1930s to buy the crops from local farmers. At this early date, the town was connected by telephone to Gore and Addis Ababa. The town's source of electricity is a single generator; the Spectrum Guide to Ethiopia describes how it "chugs and puffs bravely for an hour or two before it is closed down and darkness and silence fall over the town.
Based on figures from the Central Statistical Agency in 2005, Metu has an estimated total population of 22,103 of whom 11,442 were males and 10,661 were females. The 1994 census reported this town had a total population of 19,298 of whom 9,686 were males and 9,612 were females. It is the largest settlement in Metu woreda.
The private weekly Urji reported 11 July 1995 that some 400 prisoners reportedly escaped when a grenade was set off at the Bisheri prison in Metu. The prison guards were killed immediately as well as at least six other people.