Michigan’s lockdown measures have resulted in devastating job losses for the hospitality and leisure industries, even as other industries less affected by COVID-19 restrictions saw employment gains. These businesses were harmed by no fault of their own and deserve extra help from the state.

Michigan leaders, including Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, must do more to aid sectors of the economy that bore the brunt of the governor’s shutdowns and offer afflicted businesses a way to grow back. Restaurants faced some of the most restrictive orders and many have closed permanently.

An estimated 3,000 restaurants across the state have gone out of business. The restaurant industry employs 200,000 fewer people in Michigan than it did last year.

According to a report released late last month by the Anderson Economic Group, the leisure and hospitality industries bucked the trend of statewide economic recovery, losing 59,700 jobs from November to December as Whitmer placed the state under new shutdown orders.

The retail industry, by contrast, was allowed to stay open and saw an increase of 7,500 jobs from November to January.

Employment hemorrhaging in the hospitality and leisure industries — most of the lost jobs are in the hotel and restaurant sectors — shows how continued, across-the-board restrictions unevenly hurt these businesses and those who work for them the most.

“There is a screaming silence when it comes to the working poor,” says economist Patrick Anderson, founder and CEO of AEG.

Anderson points out that those who work in service industries are often economically disadvantaged, while the wealthy and middle class were largely unaffected by the restrictions, as they are more likely to be able to work from home.

“Those that are concerned about the most vulnerable have to be taking a serious look at these government policies,” Anderson says. “The burden of these orders falls heavily on the working poor.”

Individuals without college degrees saw their work dry up during the pandemic as smaller businesses lacked resources or options to continue to employ them remotely.

The poor and minorities saw employment opportunities shuttered by executive fiat for large parts of the year.

The Black unemployment rate in Michigan reached 35.5% in the second quarter of last year. The white unemployment rate was about half that at 17.5%, according to the liberal Economic Policy Institute.

Clearly, the governor’s COVID-19 restrictions have hurt vulnerable workers with one-size-fits-all orders that unilaterally shut down entire industries for months.

Those restrictions must be further loosened, and additional shutdowns avoided to reverse the economic damage.

— Detroit News

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