One of the biggest indicators of COVID-19's impact on Michigan's economy is jobs. On Friday morning, we'll have a clearer picture of our road to recovery when the U.S. Department of Labor releases its April jobless report.
This time a year ago, we were facing an unemployment surge with more than 23% out of work. Over the past two months, we've seen significant strides and the state's jobless rate is now hovering at around 5%.
There is some reason for optimism ahead of the report. Nationally, initial weekly jobless claims dipped below 500,000 for the first time since this pandemic started, but at the same time, Michigan employers are still struggling to find workers.
“The U.S. economy has added jobs each month in 2021, with just over 900,000 payrolls added in March," said Nick Juhle, the director of research for Greenleaf Trust.
Continued momentum is expected in the report. It's expected that an additional one million jobs were added in April. We're still not near pre-pandemic levels.
In Michigan, the hunt for workers continues as many businesses try to compete with unemployment benefits by offering more incentives for new hires.
“The job market is tough. I think everywhere you drive, you see a now hiring sign. We put on the $5,000 sign-on bonus to try to motivate people to get out," Ambassador Bridge GM Randy Spader said.
Juhle expects that as extended benefits expire, more and more people will re-join the workforce.
Experts also point to parents who are still at home, caring for kids learning virtually, and COVID-19-related retirements as other reasons for the worker shoretage.
In Michigan, starting at the end of this month, those receiving jobless benefits will once again have to prove they're looking for work.
The Michigan Unemployment Insurance Agency is also offering a $1,000 return-to-work incentive.
“If you look back, we lost almost half of the leisure and hospitality jobs in the country back last spring which amounts to about 8 and a half million jobs and today there’s still approximately 3 million jobs that have not been replaced in that industry," Juhle said.
He said another key milestone will come in September when federal unemployment benefits are set to expire.