Michigan unemployment claims spiked more than 4,000 percent in the second half of March as the coronavirus pandemic shuttered large portions of the state and national economy.
New figures released today show 420,963 claims were filed over the past two weeks, including 303,638 for the week ending March 28, more than double from the week prior. The U.S. Department of Labor reported today 6.6 million claims were filed nationwide last week, setting a new record.
“The unprecedented increase in unemployment claims demonstrate the economic hardship that COVID-19 has caused for so many across our country and here in Michigan,” Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity Director Jeff Donofrio said in a statement. “The Unemployment Insurance Agency continues to work around the clock to provide emergency financial assistance to working families. We appreciate the continued patience residents have shown and are committed to making sure every eligible Michigander who files an unemployment claim receives their benefits.”
In Kent County, 42,643 jobless claims were filed in March, with more than 35,000 in the past two weeks, according to figures released by the state. Similar percentage growth was seen in Ottawa, Muskegon and Kalamazoo counties.
The claims come as the state and federal governments extended the length residents qualify for unemployment benefits while also expanding who has access to them. Earlier this week, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an agreement with the Labor Department that offers Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and Compensation programs to the self-employed, independent contractors, “gig economy” workers and low-wage earners who are out of work due to the coronavirus.
The agreement aligns with the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, signed into law by President Trump on Friday. The CARES Act increases weekly benefits by $600 on top of state benefits, which are capped at $362 a week in Michigan.
The state’s Unemployment Insurance Agency plans to release more guidance on eligibility and the application process in the coming days. Those who have already filed for unemployment benefits do not need to reapply at this time.