Brian G. Long portrait

There are signs the West Michigan economy is improving in this pandemic-induced recession. Is it sustainable is the question? WGVU takes a closer look at the July Institute for Supply Management Research survey.

The most recent Supply Management Research survey indicated production, purchasing and new orders have swung from negative to double-digit positive.


Not only are 22% of Michigan residents behind on rent, but from April to June, Michigan had the third highest average unemployment rate in the country. Gilda Jacobs, the President and CEO of the Michigan League for Public Policy says the COVID-19 relief plan proposed by Senate Republicans is simply not enough.


State lawmakers heard today from the director of the state unemployment agency. He was there to answer questions about a backlog in resolving unemployment claims.

The wave of COVID-related layoffs led to the increase in claims. The increase in claims led to an increase in suspected fraud. Unemployment agency director Steve Gray told a joint House and Senate committee that created opportunities for people who’ve been collecting stolen identity information.

The number of people in Michigan who have filed for unemployment benefits without getting paid has grown. That’s according to the agency responsible for processing the claims.

The Unemployment Insurance Agency says that’s because there are so many instances of fraud and suspected fraud.

The agency says it’s trying to get payments out to people who have filed legitimate unemployment claims. But it says that effort is hampered by an increase in what appear to be fraudulent claims – mostly possible identity fraud.

Brian G. Long portrait

The economy is in a recession. However, there are indications in the May Supply Management Research survey that a slow recovery is underway in West Michigan.

The West Michigan economy is slowly reopening after businesses were ordered closed back in March disrupting the spread of coronavirus.

“We’re starting to dig ourselves out of a very deep hole. So, we can’t expect miracles overnight. But it’s gratifying at least to say that we’ve probably reach the bottom and are at least starting to recover.”

Unemployment benefits form
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Michigan’s April unemployment rate is one of the highest in the nation second only to Nevada based on people declaring unemployment benefits. 

“Looking at something from a month ago gives you information about where you are and where you’re heading.”

Paul Isely, Associate Dean in the Seidman College of Business at Grand Valley State University. He says the 22.7% unemployment rate was generated the week of April 12th. What does he expect when the numbers are calculated for May?

Unemployment benefits form
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Michigan’s unemployment rate rocketed in April, likely setting an all-time high at 22.7%, as coronavirus restrictions shut down businesses and put people out of work, the state reported Wednesday.

April was the first full month of stay-home orders and business shutdowns. People have been urged to wear masks and avoid each other to reduce the spread of the virus.


Michigan lost more than a million jobs from March to April, largely due to COVID-19 related layoffs. That led to a record-setting 22-point-seven percent state unemployment rate.

That’s one in five workers without jobs. And that number does not reflect people who are employed but working reduced hours.

Jason Palmer directs the state Bureau of Labor Market Information and Strategic Initiatives. He says the job losses cut across all sectors of the economy, but especially manufacturing, retail, and hospitality.

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Are we in a long period of unemployment, or is there a lasting return to the workplace as the economy reboots? WGVU talks with Mike Wall is Director of Automotive Analysis at IHS Markit.

Michigan seal

Michigan says 31,000, or nearly two-thirds, of state employees will take temporary layoff days through late July as the state confronts a budget shortfall amid the coronavirus pandemic. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced Wednesday the state will participate in a federal "work share" program. It lets employees work fewer hours but collect partial unemployment benefits to make up a portion of lost wages. For many, the furloughs will be two layoff days per two-week pay period. They will start Sunday and go through July 25.