Pandemic-triggered unemployment remains high in Detroit: survey



The unemployment rate in Detroit, the United States, still sits around 45 percent, similar to last month’s estimates of 45 percent, according to the third rapid response COVID-19 survey from the University of Michigan’s (UM) Detroit Metro Area Communities Study (DMACS), which gathered responses between May 28 and June 11.

Forty-one percent of working Detroiters say they’ve lost their jobs because of COVID-19. Of those who have lost their jobs, 73 percent say they have applied for unemployment benefits, and more than half who have applied say they have received unemployment benefits.

“We find that a substantial number of people are falling behind on their bills and facing financially precarious situations,” said Lydia Wileden, a doctoral candidate at UM who analyzed the DMACS COVID-19 survey data. “One in five Detroit households say they have not paid at least one household bill in the past month, and 44 percent say they are concerned about facing one or more hardships such as being evicted, having their utilities shut off or going bankrupt in the coming months.”

Survey results also suggest that many families are struggling with rising costs and food shortages. Sixty-five percent of Detroit households report spending more at the grocery store in the last month, while 71 percent of those who report not having enough to eat in the past week point to the prohibitively high cost of food as a cause of their insecurity.

Though many Detroit households continue to face difficult economic conditions brought on by the pandemic, survey results suggest that residents perceive the pandemic to be less serious now than in previous months. Sixty-five percent of Detroiters say the pandemic is very serious for them personally, compared to three-quarters of respondents in the previous survey wave. Black residents and those who earn lower incomes or have lost their job in the pandemic are much more likely to still view the pandemic as very serious than other Detroiters.

The survey also found a drop in concerns about a number of behaviors thought to increase the risk of contracting the virus. Detroiters believe activities such as dining in at restaurants, playing on playground equipment and attending large gatherings to be safer than they did in prior survey waves. The proportion of Detroiters who viewed visiting friends in their homes as being very unsafe fell from 43 percent to 25 percent.

Meanwhile, 56 percent of respondents report feeling that restrictions on public activities have been lifted too soon, while only 12 percent feel they have not been lifted soon enough. Even among Detroiters who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic, a majority feel restrictions are being lifted too soon.

The survey also found that nearly half of Black Detroiters and a third of Latino Detroiters say they have lost their job due to the pandemic compared to just 22 percent of white Detroiters; 71 percent of Detroiters report receiving a stimulus check, while 12 percent are still waiting for their check and another 12 percent say they do not expect a check; 20 percent of Detroiters say they have been tested for COVID-19.


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