> Unemployment: 8.1% (25th highest)
> Total home vacancy: 13.2% (18th highest)
> State GDP per capita: $31,492 (3rd lowest)
> Key reduction: maximum benefits decrease to $451/week
In late March, the Arkansas legislature approved a measure to reduce the number weeks the new unemployed can receive benefits to 25, from 26. More substantially, the state set a permanent maximum benefit at $451 per week. This number will not be adjusted for inflation unless further legislation is created. The state also expanded the list of reasons a recipient can be disqualified from coverage. Arkansas is one of the poorest states in the country, and while unemployment is below the national average, the state has one of the lowest GDPs per capita in the U.S., as well as above-average vacancy rates.
> Unemployment: 10.6% (4th highest)
> Total home vacancy: 17.4% (3rd highest)
> State GDP per capita: $35,815 (13th lowest)
> Key reduction: benefit weeks reduced to a range of 12 to 23, depending on unemployment
Florida has adopted some of the most severe cuts in the U.S. If the state’s unemployment rate remains above 10.5%, unemployed workers will be able to receive up to 23 weeks of benefits. For every 0.5 percentage points the unemployment rate drops, however, the number of weeks of benefits available will decrease by one week. The lowest amount possible will be 12 weeks, if unemployment hits 5%. This new system will go into effect in January 2012.
> Unemployment: 9.2% (18th highest)
> Total home vacancy: 8.6% (4th lowest)
> State GDP per capita: $45,302 (15th highest)
> Key reduction: benefit weeks reduced to 25
Illinois may be one of the states that is adopting these new benefit reductions not because of budget demands, but because it is exercising fiscal responsibility. Despite some problems in its major cities, Illinois appears to be doing relatively well. The state has an unemployment rate on par with the national average, healthy GDP per capita, and one of the lowest vacancy rates in the country. The state is reducing the weeks a new applicant can receive benefits to 25.
> Unemployment: 8.3% (23rd highest)
> Total home vacancy: 10.4% (17th lowest)
> State GDP per capita: $37,855 (20th lowest)
> Key reduction: benefits based on average salary, not highest quarter
Under Indiana’s current system, unemployment benefit amounts are based on a worker’s highest quarter of earnings. Starting July 1, 2012, the state’s benefits will instead be based on a worker’s past four quarters earnings. Average weekly benefits are expected to drop from $283 to $220. Furthermore, a worker will be “assumed to have refused suitable work if the offer of work is withdrawn by a prospective employer after he or she tests positive for drugs, or refuses to take a drug test,” making it more difficult for workers to apply for benefits.
> Unemployment: 10.5% (6th highest)
> Total home vacancy: 14.5% (10th highest)
> State GDP per capita: $34,893 (9th lowest)
> Key reduction: benefit weeks reduced to 20
Michigan’s legislature reduced the maximum number of weeks new unemployed citizens can receive benefits from 26 weeks to just 20. While Michigan’s unemployment rate is no longer the worst, as it was for a good portion of the recession, it still has one of the highest rates in the country. The state is also among the ten worst for vacancy and GDP per capita. This is a state that is reducing benefits because its budget demands it.