The Best (and Worst) States to Be Unemployed

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The Worst States to be Unemployed

10. Tennessee
> Pct. unemployed getting benefits:
16.0% (tied-2nd lowest)
> Pct. average weekly wage covered:
27.6% (8th lowest)
> Unemployment rate:
6.3% (19th highest)
> 1-yr. job growth:
1.8% (16th highest)

The number of jobs in Tennessee grew 1.8% in the 12 months prior to April 2014, among the higher growth rates in the country. For the 6.3% of the workforce that was unemployed, however, unemployment insurance did not offer much help. The average unemployment insurance was $232, or just 27.6% of the weekly average wage in Tennessee — both well below the $312 and 33% averages for the nation, respectively. Additionally, only 16% of people who applied for unemployment insurance received it, less than in all but two other states.

9. Louisiana
> Pct. unemployed getting benefits:
20.0% (tied-7th lowest)
> Pct. average weekly wage covered:
24.8% (2nd lowest)
> Unemployment rate:
4.5% (10th lowest)
> 1-yr. job growth:
0.7% (11th lowest)

Louisiana is one of the least generous states as far as unemployment insurance is concerned, offering out-of-job workers an average of $208 a week in the 12 months through the first quarter of 2014, less than all but two other states. And while Louisiana is hardly the nation’s wealthiest state, the unemployment insurance benefits amounted to just 24.8% of workers’ previous average wages, the second-lowest rate in the nation. Additionally, just 20% of the unemployed received benefits, well below the nationwide share of 27%. Louisiana’s unemployment rate has improved recently. As of April, just 4.5% of the state’s labor force was unemployed, the 10th-lowest rate in the U.S.

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8. Georgia
> Pct. unemployed getting benefits:
16.0% (tied-2nd lowest)
> Pct. average weekly wage covered:
30.0% (13th lowest)
> Unemployment rate:
7.0% (8th highest)
> 1-yr. job growth:
1.9% (13th highest)

While Georgia still had a relatively high unemployment rate of 7% in April, it was a significant improvement — of 1.3 percentage points — from the year before. The state’s relatively high job growth of 1.9% in the 12 months ending in April 2014 likely helped. The strong job growth could also explain why Georgia residents spent only 11 weeks on average collecting unemployment insurance, the shortest period in the country. However, only 16% of applicants for unemployment insurance actually received it. This was tied with Tennessee for the nation’s second-lowest recipiency rate. Of those who received benefits, the average benefits amounted to just 30% of the average weekly wage, one of the lowest in the nation.

7. Virginia
> Pct. unemployed getting benefits:
19% (6th lowest)
> Pct. average weekly wage covered:
30.7% (15th lowest)
> Unemployment rate:
4.9% (15th lowest)
> 1-yr. job growth:
-0.1% (2nd lowest)

Just 19% of out-of-work residents in Virginia received unemployment benefits in the 12 months through the first quarter of 2014, a lower proportion than in all but a handful of states. It’s likely many of the unemployed simply ran out of benefit eligibility. According to the Department of Labor, during that time the state’s exhaustion rate — a rough measure of how many workers have exhausted their unemployment benefits — was 48%. This was one of the highest rates in the nation. Slow job growth likely contributed to the high exhaustion rate. In the 12 months through April, the state actually lost jobs. The total number of nonfarm jobs shrank by 0.1% in that time, more than any state except for New Mexico.

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6. Arizona
> Pct. unemployed getting benefits:
17.0% (tied-4th lowest)
> Pct. average weekly wage covered:
25.3% (3rd lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 6.9% (tied-9th highest)
> 1-yr. job growth:
1.6% (18th highest)

Unemployed Arizona residents received an average of $221 in benefits. This was equal to just 25.3% of their average weekly wage, less than in all but two other states. Additionally, just 17% of the unemployed received benefits in the 12 months through the first quarter of the year, less than in all but a handful of states. This may be in part due to the state’s high benefit exhaustion rate of 45.8%, which was higher than in the majority of states. As of April, the total number of jobs in Arizona rose by 1.6% in the preceding 12 months, while the unemployment rate dropped to 6.9%. However, many of the residents who found a job in that time may have not found full-time work. The state’s underemployment rate during that time was 16.1%, third worst nationwide behind only California and Nevada.