Initial jobless claims increase to highest-ever levels nationally and in Michigan

By Michael Horrigan, Jim Robey, Katie Bolter and Gerrit Anderson

April 2, 2020

The Department of Labor announced today that for the week ending March 28th, the number of initial claim filings for Unemployment Insurance (UI) were 6,648,000 on a seasonally adjusted basis and 5,823,917 on a not seasonally adjusted basis.  In Michigan, initial claims surged to 311,086 (not seasonally adjusted). All three mark the highest levels ever recorded in the history of these series.

Chart 1 depicts the magnitude of the increase for the U.S. on a not seasonally adjusted basis. Initial claims for the week ending March 28th were 2.9 million higher than the level recorded for the prior week (as revised).

Chart of initial UI claims

Nearly every state experienced a surge in UI claims last week.  Leading the increases were California (878,727), Pennsylvania (405,880), New York (366,403), Michigan (311,086), Texas (275,597), Ohio (272,129), Florida (227,000), and New Jersey (205,515).

Both Michigan and Florida had initial claims last week that were more than 40 times their average levels for the pre-surge period from January 11th to March 14th. The state with the highest ratio was North Carolina (52). The U.S. map below depicts the severity of the surge in claims.  Each state is colored in one of five shades of green.  The darkest green is used for states whose initial claims were at least 40 times their previous average level over the period from January 11th to March 14th; the next darkest for states whose increase was 30-39 times as high; 3rd darkest 25-29 times as high; 4th darkest 20-24 times as high; and lightest green reserved for 15-19 times as high. The color white is reserved for states whose change was under 15 times as high as their average over the prior period.

US state UI claims map

In Michigan, the number of initial filers for UI in the week ending March 28th was 311,086 as compared to 128,006 for the week ending March 21st. The total for this past week is 43 times as high as the average initial claims level from January 11th to March 14th

Based on data provided by the Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency (UIA), the table below provides a percentage breakdown of the 311,086 initial unemployment claims in Michigan by major industry sector. The largest share of initial filings came from individuals working in the Manufacturing sector (82,730).  This compares to initial claims of 11,766 in that industry for the week ending March 21st. Within Manufacturing, the largest levels of initial claims were for the Transportation Equipment Manufacturing industry (35,231) and the Fabricated Metal Product Manufacturing industry (12,122). The industry with the second largest level of initial claims was Retail Trade (32,616), an increase of 24,205 over the previous week.  Food Services and Drinking Places, which led the surge in initial claims for the week ending March 21st, posted an initial claims level of 24,978 this past week. The Construction industry had initial filings of 27,056, the largest share coming from the Specialty Trade Contractors industry (18,924).  The Health Care and Social Assistance industry had over 26,000 initial claims this past week, with over 18,000 in the Ambulatory Health Care Services industry. This industry is dominated by smaller doctor and dentist offices.  The Administrative and Support Services industry had initial claim filings of nearly 19,000 last week. This industry includes Temporary Help Services.

MI industy initial claims table

In the last two weeks, many of these Michigan industries have shed a sizable share of their total employment. Using the most recent data on average industry employment levels for Michigan from the 3rd quarter of 2019, initial claims in the Food Services and Drinking Places industry over the last two weeks represented 20% of their average employment level in 2019Q3. Manufacturing has shed 15% of their prior employment level with Transportation Equipment Manufacturing shrinking their prior base employment by more than 20%. The Ambulatory Health Care Services Industry has shrunk 15% as compared to 2019Q3 average levels. 

Initial claims also surged across Michigan counties last week.  Wayne county led all counties with over 52,667. The next two largest were Macomb (39,192), Oakland (34,163), Kent (19,503) and Genesee (15,525).  Initial claims in Oakland county were over 23 times as high as its average level of initial filings between January 5th and March 14th. Other counties reporting notable initial claim levels were Ottawa (9,207), St. Clair (7,765), Ingham (7,083), Livingston (6,798), Washtenaw (6,553), Muskegon (6,400), Kalamazoo (5,964), and Saginaw (5,887).

The county map below depicts the levels of these claims by county.  Each county is colored in one of five shades of green. For example, the darkest green is used for counties whose initial claims last week were at least 10,000.

MI initial claims map


Kathleen Bolter headshot

Kathleen Bolter

Project Manager, Policies for Place Initiative