Jobless claims in Michigan, U.S. spike in wake of coronavirus pandemic

US added 248,000 jobs in September, pushes unemployment rate to 5.9%
Posted at 11:07 AM, Mar 26, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-27 04:18:57-04

DETROIT (WXYZ) — Nearly 3.3 million people are out of work in the United States, according to the most recent jobs report from the U.S. Department of Labor; quadrupling the previous record set in 1982.

"These numbers are unprecedented. 3.3 million jobless claims. I think the high water mark in the 80s was 600,000. No one saw this coming," said Matthew Roling, the Executive Director of Wayne State's Office of Business Innovation.

And in Michigan, unemployment claims are also way up. There's been a 550 percent increase in the number of claims filed compared to those usually filed during this time of year, according to the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency. And since walk-in visits are now longer allowed, the state's website is overloaded.

"Because of the high volume of users at this time, customers may experience slow response and loading times when using the MiWAM system. Our IT team is working diligently on a fix to ensure the system is performing as efficiently as possible," said Communications Manager Erica Quealy in a statement.

"And I think it speaks to the the total lack of clarity that most employers feel right now," Roling told Action News.

He said small businesses in the state have been hit especially hard under the "Stay Home, Stay Safe" executive order.

“Employers don’t really have the freedom or flexibility with their balance sheets the money that they have available, to keep these employees on. And so the most humane thing for them to do is to let these folks go so that they can seek benefits," he said.

But Roling also pointed out that Detroit's automakers shifting gears during this crisis, to help make vital medical equipment, is moving Michigan in the right direction in the both the short and long-term.

“While obviously making ventilators might not employ the same number of people as making pick-up trucks, a lot of Michigan’s economy is based manufacturing," he said, noting that industry tends to rebound faster than others.

Michigan Retailers have also been hit hard by COVID-19. The CEO of the Michigan Retailers Association, William Hallan, reported an overall strong January and February, before this crisis truly hit Michigan.

“We won’t know for a while how the pandemic will affect retailers and the entire economy,” he said in a statement.

“I’d like to think that we’ve seen the worst. But I think that really comes down to next month and how we collectively are able to stop the spread of this virus," Roling told Action News.

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