Detroiters disproportionately impacted by coronavirus job losses, U-M survey finds


People wearing masks to protect against COVID-19 in downtown Detroit. - CITY OF DETROIT
  • City of Detroit
  • People wearing masks to protect against COVID-19 in downtown Detroit.

Since the coronavirus pandemic began in March, 43% of Detroiters have lost their jobs — driving up the city’s unemployment rate to nearly 50%, more than three times higher than the U.S. unemployment rate, according to a new University of Michigan survey.

The coronavirus shutdowns have upended the lives of tens of thousands of residents in the nation’s most impoverished city, disproportionately impacting African Americans and residents with low-wage jobs, says Jeffrey Morenoff, one of the survey’s lead researchers and a professor of sociology.

"We found that job losses were especially prevalent among people who were earning less income before the pandemic, people with less education and people of color," Morenoff, director of the Population Studies Center at U-M's Institute for Social Research, says in a news release. "Even among Detroiters who are still working, 27% said their hours have been reduced since the pandemic. This loss of income takes a significant toll on people's long-term financial security."

Many residents are worried they can’t make ends meet. More than a quarter said they’re worried they may run out of food. Another 27% said they delayed or were unable to make rent or mortgage payments. Nearly half delayed or skipped payments on loans for students loans or car payments. And 28% said they skipped or deferred their utility bills.

"While these job losses are staggering, we likely won't know the full weight of the pandemic for some time, Lydia Wileden, a doctoral candidate at U-M who analyzed the survey, says in a news release. “Two-thirds of those newly unemployed report that they have been temporarily laid off or furloughed from their jobs, but only time will tell if their positions and their employers actually come back.”

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