Rising employment coincided with cut in maximum number of weeks getting checks
The number of people receiving unemployment checks in Michigan reached at least a 30-year low this past October.
In the week of Oct. 8, 2016, there were 39,395 people receiving unemployment insurance. That’s the lowest number since 1987, the earliest year for which online records are available. By comparison, during the Great Recession, 186,801 people in Michigan received an unemployment check during the week of Oct. 10, 2009. The highest number of people receiving unemployment benefits since 1987, however, occurred the week of Jan. 24, 2009, at 363,212.
“Just confirmation that the economy of the state is doing very well,” said University of Michigan economist Don Grimes in an email. “Our two biggest economic problems going forward are going to be 1) a shortage of potential workers for firms to hire, and 2) an even bigger shortage of better educated and trained young workers.”
Wendy Block, director of health policy and human resources with the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, said there was reason to celebrate the drop in people receiving unemployment benefits.
“Not too long ago, Michigan’s unemployment rate remained stubbornly high and economic recovery was a distant dream,” Block said. “Today, Michigan boasts one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country and our job market is on solid footing and improving, if not exceeding expectations. In fact, many Michigan job providers are reporting difficulty finding qualified and skilled workers.”
Public Act 14 of 2011 reduced from 26 weeks to 20 weeks the amount of time an unemployed person can collect benefits. That change took effect in 2012.
“In the past couple of years Michigan has had the lowest number of individuals receiving Unemployment Insurance since the late 1990s, despite the fact that there are considerably more workers looking for work now than at that time,” said Gilda Z. Jacobs, CEO of the Michigan League for Public Policy, in an email. “In 2011, the Legislature cut the maximum length of time workers may receive UI while they look for work from 26 weeks to 20 weeks. Despite our improving economy, many areas of the state continue to struggle and long-term unemployment remains a reality. Michigan should restore the 26-week maximum in order to make the UI system respond more effectively to those in need who are still actively looking for employment.”
Historically, unemployment rises at the end of the year. As of Dec. 24, 2016, there were 68,071 people receiving unemployment benefits in Michigan. By comparison, 104,387 people received unemployment benefits as of Dec. 28, 2013.