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More than 1.3 million people in Michigan, including roughly 69,000 last week, have filed for unemployment since March 15 in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. 

The 68,952 who filed for unemployment during the week of April 26 to May 2 was the smallest weekly total since COVID-19 related restrictions triggered mass layoffs in mid-March. 

Between March 15 and May 6, the state paid $4.13 billion in unemployment to Michigan workers, according to state data. 

Nationally, more than 33.5 million workers have applied for unemployment in that same seven-week time period, including 3.2 million new claims last week. 

The East Lansing-based Anderson Economic Group estimated Thursday that state unemployment offices throughout the nation are paying out more than $16 billion a week in claims. 

“States are quickly becoming one of the largest sources of household income in the country," said the group's CEO Patrick L. Anderson. "The scale and magnitude of these benefits is changing the way Americans view work during this coronavirus depression.”

Whitmer issued an executive order Wednesday that her office said would expedite "unemployment benefits for tens of thousands" of Michigan residents. 

Specifically, the order allows the state Unemployment Insurance Agency to review a person's most recent job separation to determine whether that person receives unemployment. The order streamlines a process that previously required staff to review a person's separation from other recent employers as well as the most recent cause of separation. 

Struggling under the increase in unemployment claims, the state unemployment system has been plagued by slow software and crashed sites. 

Last week, the agency's director, Steve Gray, said there were tens of thousands of people waiting in a queue to get assistant with their claims. 

eleblanc@detroitnews.com 

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