More than 1 in 5 Michigan workers—over 1 million people—have filed for unemployment insurance in four weeks

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

April 16, 2020

Over the four weeks ending April 11, over 1 million Michiganders have filed for unemployment insurance, representing 23 percent of wage and salary employment in the state—the highest share in the nation.

Nationally, over 20 million new claims have been filed over the same period, accounting for 13 percent of wage and salary workers.

Initial UI filings chart

National trends

For the week ending April 11, there were 5,245,000 initial claims for unemployment insurance (UI) after seasonal adjustment, a decrease of 1,370,000 from last week’s revised number and 1,622,000 less than the record high of 6,867,000 two weeks earlier. Before seasonal adjustment, there were 4,971,823 initial claims, a decrease of 1,239,576 from the previous week.

State Trends

Compared to last week, 43 states had decreases in initial filings. Despite slight declines in initial filings for most states over the past two weeks, the cumulative number since the beginning of the surge four weeks ago has been remarkable.

The map below shows this cumulative number for each state, expressed as a percentage of the state’s average wage and salary employment over the prior 12 months.

Fifteen states have cumulative initial claims that are at least 15 percent of employment. Of these, three had cumulative initial filings of over 1 million: California (2.824 million), Pennsylvania (1.298 million), and Michigan (1.04 million).

U.S. UI claims state map

Michigan perspective

This past week, Michigan’s initial filings totaled 219,320, a decrease of 169,234 from the week before.

Goods-producing industries, primarily construction and manufacturing, account for a total of 24 percent of all claims over the last four weeks. Construction accounts for 6.7 percent of the total. Manufacturing has been the hardest hit industry, with a cumulative total of 187,000 claims, or 17.5 percent of the total. Manufacturing’s total claims represent 30 percent of the industry’s employment. (Industry employment based on average monthly employment from the first quarter of 2019, as reported in the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages.)

Within manufacturing, the highest cumulative number of initial claims have been in four industries: transportation equipment manufacturing, which includes automobiles (68,539); fabricated metal product manufacturing (28,375); machinery manufacturing (20,568); and plastics and rubber products manufacturing (16,026). These industries are highly linked, especially in the production of automobiles. Based on our estimates for Michigan, for every 100 jobs in the automobile industry, there are 29 related jobs in these other three industries. Consistent with these filing trends, sales of light vehicles have dropped from an annual pace of 17.1 million units in February to 10.7 million units in March. Class-A truck orders for future delivery declined from 14,100 to 7,400 over the same period.

Another related industry is administrative and support services, which includes temporary help workers. Many temps work in manufacturing establishments (and increasingly in health care and other industries, as well). Nearly 68,000 employees in administrative and support services have filed for unemployment insurance since March 15, nearly 25 percent of the industry’s total employment.

Governor Whitmer’s Executive Order has resulted in the closure of numerous establishments, limited products and services available, and restricted on-site work to critical infrastructure workers who are necessary to sustain or protect life or to conduct minimum basic operations. The accommodation and food services industry has been particularly hard hit, with 141,747 initial claim filings over the past four weeks, 13.3 percent of total claims over that period. Over 117,000 of those were workers in food services and drinking places, more than one of out every three workers in the industry.

Retail trade establishments that rely on in-person sales also have been significantly affected.  Since March 15, this industry has seen 106,973 initial filings—10 percent of total claims, and 23 percent of its employment. The vast majority of retail establishments are small: in the first quarter of 2019, nearly half in Michigan had fewer than 5 employees, and 95 percent had fewer than 50. Wholesale trade, typically business-to-business sales, was also affected, with 40,865 cumulative initial claims, 24 percent of its employment.

Although health care has been at the heart of responding to the current pandemic crisis, this industry has also experienced significant layoffs due to the lack of demand for physician, dental, and laboratory services, as well as hospital-ordered cutbacks in elective procedures to preserve capacity for COVID-19 patients. Over the four weeks ending April 11, there have been over 77,000 initial filings in health care, with nearly 59,000 from ambulatory health care services—representing nearly three of every 10 workers in an industry dominated by smaller doctor’s offices, outpatient care centers, labs, and home health care. Even at hospitals, initial claims totaled over 13,000 over the last four weeks.  

Michigan county initial claims map

Across Michigan counties, Wayne had the most initial claims last week, at 44,403, followed by Oakland (27,202), Macomb (24,132), Kent (13,745), and Genesee (10,072). All but one county saw decreases from the prior week.

Over the past four weeks, three counties in the Detroit urban area have accounted for a combined 43 percent of all initial claims—Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb Counties. Wayne alone has totaled 195,000 initial claims, accounting for 19 percent of Michigan’s total. Oakland has had 124,000 total initial claims (13 percent of Michigan’s total), and Macomb has had 123,000 (12 percent).

These three counties have 37 percent of the state’s manufacturing employment and 42 percent of its total employment. Most manufacturing employment in each county is in transportation equipment manufacturing, machinery manufacturing, and fabricated metal products, which have all seen among the highest share of workers filing claims.


Kathleen Bolter headshot

Kathleen Bolter

Project Manager, Policies for Place Initiative