Michigan jobless claims exceed 1.2 million in six weeks

Craig Mauger
The Detroit News

Lansing — More than 1.2 million people in Michigan have filed for unemployment since March 15 as restrictions on businesses have sought to combat the spread of COVID-19.

The Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity released new figures Thursday morning that cover last week's filing. During the week from April 19-25, there were 81,312 initial claims, according to the state's data.

The 81,312 number is the smallest weekly total in the last six weeks. However, it's more than 18 times the number of claims filed during a similar week last year.

In the six weeks from from March 15 through Sunday – the state has seen 1.26 million jobless claims.

Nationally, more than 3.8 million laid-off workers applied for unemployment benefits last week as the U.S. economy slid further into a crisis that is becoming the most devastating since the 1930s. Roughly 30.3 million people have now filed for jobless aid in the six weeks since stay-at-home orders started to go in effect.

The large numbers of jobless claims come as the state's Unemployment Insurance Agency website struggles to keep up with unprecedented demand.

On Wednesday, Steve Gray, the agency's director, apologized for the website's flaws and said tens of thousands of people were waiting in a proverbial line for help with their online filings.

"We’re focused on you guys," Gray said to those individuals Wednesday. "We haven’t forgotten about you. We’re going to get it. I think it’s going to happen pretty quickly."

Michigan's first COVID-19 cases were confirmed on March 10. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued her first stay-at-home order that forced nonessential businesses to limit their operations on March 23.

As of Wednesday, the state had reported 40,399 cases of the virus and 3,670 deaths.