130K Michiganders filed for unemployment last week

3.3M Americans sought jobless benefits

By: - March 27, 2020 5:13 am

Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency | Susan J. Demas

New figures from the U.S. Department of Labor show more than 129,000 Michigan residents reported being out of work last week, an indicator of the continued impacts COVID-19 shutdowns are having on the economy. 

Nationwide, almost 3.3 million Americans filed unemployment insurance claims in the week ending Saturday, per the Labor Department. The data comes as several states and cities shuttered a large amount of business operations last week to contain the rapid spread of the novel coronavirus. 

In a statement, U.S. Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia said the jump in unemployment insurance claims “was not unexpected, and results from the recognition by Americans across the country that we have had to temporarily halt certain activities in order to defeat the coronavirus.”

Unemployment claims, March 23, 2019-March 21, 2020 | Department of Labor

As for Michigan, 129,298 unemployment insurance claims were filed between March 15 and Saturday, up from 5,338 the week before that. “Nearly every state” reported unemployment impacts caused by precautions around the new strain, according to a summary report

More people are expected to file as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s stay at home executive order, effective Tuesday, closed non-essential Michigan businesses, so the state could see additional jobless claims in the coming weeks.

In anticipation of the unemployment increases, Whitmer recently issued an executive order expanding benefits for unemployed Michigan workers. It extends the unemployment application eligibility period from 14 to 28 days. 

The order also allows state benefits to continue for 26 weeks, instead of 20, and suspends in-person registration and work search requirements. 


Last week’s spike in claims nationwide was the biggest one-week increase since 2012, according to the Washington, D.C.-based Economic Policy Institute (EPI). The increase also means it was the biggest, percentage-wise, since 1992 – larger than anything seen during the Great Recession that lasted from late 2007 to June 2009.

Last week, Goldman Sachs estimated that 2.25 million Americans would file claims between March 15 and March 21. The number out of the Labor Department today — 3.283 million — far exceeds that. 

And major fiscal stimulus is needed to fend off an impending coronavirus-caused recession, according to the EPI. The U.S. Senate on Wednesday night passed another COVID-19 relief package that allocates $2 trillion in spending to workers and businesses who have taken an economic hit. The bill, which passed 96-0, also promises aid to hospitals and states impacted by the pandemic. 

If the House also passes the bill and President Trump signs it, it would be the largest economic stimulus package enacted in the United States, as the Advance previously reported. 

A large chunk of the stimulus package is an increase in those much-sought-after unemployment insurance benefits. It would allocate about $600 per person, per week, in federal funding. A provision from U.S. Gary Peters (D-Bloomfield Twp.) expands who is eligible to include those who exhausted state unemployment benefits or workers who would not usually qualify, such as small business owners, freelance workers, independent contractors, seasonal workers and those who recently started or were about to start a new job. Workers could receive benefits for up to 39 weeks.


Direct checks of $1,200 for adults and $500 for dependent children are expected to be sent to individuals. 

“The hard impact of this on American workers was anticipated in the bill passed by the Senate last night, which provides hundreds of billions of dollars in unprecedented funding for traditional unemployment insurance and pandemic unemployment assistance, and one-time cash payments of $1,200 or more to Americans making $75,000 or less ($150,000 for those who are married),” Scalia said of the package. 

Even with help from stimulus packages, the EPI projects the national economy could lose 14 million jobs by the summer. 

“These estimates assume $1 trillion in fiscal stimulus — in other words, even with $1 trillion in stimulus, the job losses will be enormous,” according to a new EPI report.

EPI said the new $2 trillion package could help mitigate some losses, but American workers will end up feeling the virus’s impacts for months to come.  

“Yet even with these measures, many people will still need to remain out of work, potentially for months, in order to stop the virus’s spread,” EPI said. “In addition to federal action, lawmakers at the state and local levels must do everything they can to ensure that these workers and their families do not suffer economically during this time.”


Filing for benefits online

A fact sheet for claiming unemployment benefits in Michigan during the COVID-19 outbreak can be found here. Eligible employees can apply for unemployment benefits online here or by calling 1-866-500-0017.

UIA online resources include:

  • File a claim for unemployment benefits
  • Talk with a customer service agent (Monday-Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.)
  • Message a customer service agent outside of normal hours (weekdays after 5 p.m. and before 8 a.m. and weekends)
  • Manage your account 24/7

Michigan Works! agency resources can be found online here or by calling 1-800-285-WORKS.

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C.J. Moore
C.J. Moore

C.J. Moore covers the environment and the Capitol. She previously worked at NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland as a public affairs staff science writer. She also previously covered crop sustainability and coal pollution issues for Great Lakes Echo. In addition, she served as editor in chief at The State News and covered its academics and research beat. She is a journalism graduate student at Michigan State University.