U.S. unemployment rate his highest since Great Depression; Michigan's forecasted to get higher

Posted at 5:34 PM, May 08, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-08 17:34:22-04

(WXYZ) — The U.S. unemployment rate has hit the highest rate since the Great Depression, and economic forecasters say Michigan’s rate will be even higher in the coming weeks.

Unprecedented unemployment numbers released Friday show the U.S. lost 20.5 million jobs thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. The new unemployment rate is now 14.7%.

“The unemployment rate went up by 10 percentage points in one month, which is the greatest increase in history,” said University of Michigan Research Economist Donald Grimes.

Grimes said the worst news is still yet to come, because those Department of Labor figures only include job losses prior to April 12. Michigan’s state numbers are expected to be even worse than the national figures when they’re released later this month.

“Michigan’s unemployment rate traditionally runs higher than the national unemployment rate, especially during a recession,” said Grimes.

“I’m really freaking out and panicking as to what am I going to do,” said Veronica Davis.

Davis recently relocated to Marlette from Royal Oak said the only cash she has left is $1 dollar in quarters.

“I keep them in a little jar, and my husband and I are like – ok, we’re down to just 4 quarters,” said Davis. “In case I need gas to go anyplace, that’s what we’ll use it for. I think we have enough food to last us, maybe if we’re lucky, till next Wednesday.”

Davis said after she was laid off on March 30th from her job at a Ford dealership, she applied for unemployment immediately. But she still hasn’t received any benefits, and Davis said she and her husband are out of savings.

She’s hoping she can return to work soon, but since she’s had cancer three times, she’s also worried about getting exposed to the coronavirus once businesses re-open.

Grimes said economists are also concerned about that: if the economy is re-opened too quickly and the coronavirus surges back with deadly force, the country could get mired in another depression.

“Then you do run this risk of sort of a permanent damage, because we can do this once. I don’t know if we can keep shutting down the economy on a repeat basis,” said Grimes.

If the economy re-opens safely and slowly, Grimes says U of M’s economic forecasters expect a fairly quick bounce-back of jobs.

As for Davis, she’s not only concerned about her own lack of savings – she’s worried about her son as he graduates high school into a very uncertain future.

“It’s scary to me. I really never thought in my lifetime that I would have this happen,” said Davis.

Additional Coronavirus information and resources:

Read our daily Coronavirus Live Blog for the latest updates and news on coronavirus.

Click here for a page with resources including a COVID-19 overview from the CDC, details on cases in Michigan, a timeline of Governor Gretchen Whitmer's orders since the outbreak, coronavirus' impact on Southeast Michigan, and links to more information from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, the CDC and the WHO.

View a global coronavirus tracker with data from Johns Hopkins University.

Find out how you can help metro Detroit restaurants struggling during the pandemic.

See all of our Helping Each Other stories.

See complete coverage on our Coronavirus Continuing Coverage page.