The Best (and Worst) States to Be Unemployed

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The Best States to be Unemployed

10. Wisconsin
> Pct. unemployed getting benefits: 38% (5th highest)
> Pct. average weekly wage covered: 34.1% (22nd lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 5.8% (24th lowest)
> 1-yr. job growth: 1.9% (12th highest)

Wisconsin has benefited recently from an expansion of its health and education sectors, which together grew by 2.2% in the 12 months through April 2014. While most of the new jobs in these sectors were temporary, according to the Wisconsin Department of Revenue, job growth has been strong in these sectors over the last three years. More broadly, state nonfarm payrolls grew 1.9%, the 12th highest growth rate in the country, and higher than the national rate of 1.7%. The strong job growth likely helped keep Wisconsin’s unemployment rate consistently below the national rate. For those without a job, the state offers relatively accessible unemployment insurance. Wisconsin had the fifth highest recipiency rate in the country.

9. Montana
> Pct. unemployed getting benefits:
39% (4th highest)
> Pct. average weekly wage covered:
41.5% (7th highest)
> Unemployment rate:
4.8% (tied-13th lowest)
> 1-yr. job growth:
0.8% (12th lowest)

High recipiency and replacement rates, coupled with low unemployment make Montana a better state than most in which to be unemployed. Montana generously replaced nearly 42% of unemployed workers’ income, the seventh highest nationwide. Additionally, Montana’s unemployment rate was nearly 2 percentage points below the national rate. According to the BLS, rebounds in logging and financial services sectors following the 2008 recession helped strengthen the state’s labor market. However, years of high job growth may be difficult to sustain. This is potentially true of Montana, where the total number of jobs grew only 0.8% in the 12 months through April.

ALSO READ: Ten States with the Slowing Growing Economies

8. Kansas
> Pct. unemployed getting benefits:
30% (17th highest)
> Pct. average weekly wage covered:
43.2% (5th highest)
> Unemployment rate:
4.8% (tied-13th lowest)
> 1-yr. job growth:
1.2% (25th highest)

Unemployed Kansas workers received an average of $342 each week, or approximately 43% of their average weekly income. This was the fifth highest replacement rate in the country. Additionally, Kansas had relatively low unemployment in recent years. Its April 2012 unemployment rate was just 5.5%. By April 2013 it was 4.9%, and a year later it was 4.8%. By comparison, the U.S.’s unemployment rate was 8.2%, 7.5%, and 6.3%, in the respective months. Kansas had a moderate job growth of 1.2%, below the national jobs growth rate of 1.7%. But the state’s underemployment rate, which was 3 percentage points below the nationwide rate in the 12 months through the first quarter of 2014, indicates the Kansas job market is relatively strong. In recent years, Kansas has broadly cut state taxes in an effort to spur job growth, a policy that has won both praise and criticism.

7. Wyoming
> Pct. unemployed getting benefits:
29% (19th highest)
> Pct. average weekly wage covered:
42.2% (6th highest)
> Unemployment rate:
3.7% (4th lowest)
> 1-yr. job growth:
1.1% (23rd lowest)

The unemployment rate in Wyoming was only 3.7% in April, considerably less than the national rate and among the lowest nationwide. Additionally, Wyoming had the fourth-lowest underemployment rate in the country, suggesting that Wyoming residents were not forced to accept less-than-ideal jobs. While the share of unemployed residents receiving benefits was only slightly above the national rate, unemployment insurance recipients received approximately 42% of their average weekly wage in benefits. This was the sixth highest replacement rate in the country. Wyoming’s economy and jobs have historically been closely tied to the state’s energy industry. For example, the coal industry directly or indirectly accounts for one-sixth of Wyoming jobs, according to the Bureau of Land Management.

ALSO READ: Ten States with the Fastest Growing Economies

6. Minnesota
> Pct. unemployed getting benefits:
38% (tied-5th highest)
> Pct. average weekly wage covered:
39.7% (10th highest)
> Unemployment rate:
4.7% (12th lowest)
> 1-yr. job growth:
1.5% (21st highest)

After experiencing dramatic job losses during the recession, employment in Minnesota’s construction and manufacturing sectors have rebounded in recent years. Job growth
in these sectors has helped maintain the state’s unemployment rate below the national rate. Just 4.7% of Minnesota workers were unemployed in April, versus 6.3% of workers nationwide. Unemployed workers also benefited from Minnesota’s high recipiency rate. The state extended unemployment insurance to 38% of its jobless working population, the fifth highest recipiency rate in the country. Workers who received benefits were awarded an average of $381, or nearly 40% of their prior wages, among the highest replacement rates nationwide.