Detroit Regional Chamber > New Michigan unemployment claims continued their downward slide last week

New Michigan unemployment claims continued their downward slide last week

March 18, 2021
Originally published in the Detroit Free Press.

New unemployment claims in Michigan continued their downward slide last week, a sign that the state’s economy is recovering as restrictions are loosened and warmer weather coaxes consumers out of their homes.

New claims for regular state benefits have now hovered around 11,000 for three straight weeks. That’s the lowest level they’ve reached since the pandemic started a year ago, but still twice as high as they were pre-pandemic.

New claims in Michigan declined slightly to 11,060 in the week ending March 13, down from 11,393 the week prior, the U.S. Department of Labor said Thursday. Last year at this time, there were about 5,300 new claims.

U.S. unemployment claims increased to 770,000 last week, up from 725,000 the week prior on a seasonally adjusted basis.

New jobless claims in Michigan have fallen since peaking in early April with nearly 400,000 claims in one week. In recent weeks, as restrictions have loosened, new unemployment claims have reached their pandemic lows of about 11,000 claims. That’s down from nearly 34,000 claims one week in November when a new set of restrictions were imposed, and are lower than they were in October, when claims dropped to 12,600 in one week, the prior pandemic low.

There is some good news for those who have been relying on jobless benefits. Two key federal programs have been extended until Sept. 4, and the state’s Unemployment Insurance Agency said there likely won’t be a gap between benefits.

Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) benefits, which cover freelancers and those who wouldn’t qualify for regular state benefits, have also been expanded to address circumstances when a worker is directly affected by COVID-19. Filers in these situations are now eligible.

  • If a filer refuses to return to a workplace that’s unsafe
  • Provides services to educational institutions or educational service agencies
  • Has seen their hours reduced, or experienced a temporary or permanent layoff, as a direct result of COVID-19

“Continuation of these federal benefit programs will provide some financial breathing room to Michigan workers as we continue to fight the effects of COVID-19,” Liza Estlund Olson, acting director of the state’s Unemployment Insurance Agency, said in a news release Wednesday.

The additional eligibility provisions apply retroactively to the beginning of the PUA program for those who filed before Dec. 27. For those who filed after Dec. 27, it is retroactive to Dec. 6.