Published in Economic Development
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer Gov. Gretchen Whitmer COURTESY PHOTO

Michigan unemployment nears 1.2 million as Whitmer extends eligibility

BY Thursday, April 23, 2020 10:33am

Michigan’s unemployment rate grew to nearly 25 percent as another 134,000 workers filed jobless claims last week, bringing the state’s total to nearly 1.2 million since mid-March.

The Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency has paid out $1.37 billion in benefits to roughly 820,000 workers as officials see historical demand far exceeding the Great Recession.

“We are committed to providing this emergency financial assistance to Michigan workers as quickly as possible, but we know we still have a lot of work left to do to get every dollar in benefits to the working families that need it most,” Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity Director Jeff Donofrio said in a statement. “We’re working around the clock to add capacity to the system so that we can continue to process all claims during this historic demand for benefits.”

Unemployment claims for last week continue the downward slide since the peak of 388,554 claims filed during the week ending April 4. Nationally, nearly 26 million Americans have filed for unemployment since widespread closures began last month.

The new data come after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer extended and expanded a prior executive order on unemployment eligibility during the coronavirus pandemic. The order allows for unemployment benefits to workers who voluntarily left a job after accepting new employment but couldn’t start a new position due to the pandemic.

The order — which also expands the state’s work-sharing program that’s meant to help employers avoid layoffs — is the third expansion of unemployment benefits in Michigan since mid March. The latest also suspends requirements for those seeking benefits to request a registration and work search waiver from their employer.

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