The Best (and Worst) States to Be Unemployed

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5. Illinois
> Pct. unemployed getting benefits:
26.0% (24th lowest)
> Pct. average weekly wage covered:
32.3% (17th lowest)
> Unemployment rate:
7.9% (3rd highest)
> 1-yr. job growth:
0.5% (7th lowest)

Illinois’ April unemployment rate of 7.9% was among the highest in the nation, likely due in part to tepid job creation. Nonfarm payrolls grew by only 0.5% in the 12 months through April. While job growth is slow, duration of unemployment insurance benefits was among the longest in the country. The nearly 18 weeks unemployed workers received benefits was the 10th longest span in the country. Still, nearly three-quarters of the states’ unemployed did not receive benefits, less than in about half of all states. Further, not all workers with a job were necessarily well off. As of the first quarter, Illinois’ underemployment rate, which includes all workers not working to the extent they want to, was 15.6% over the preceding 12 months. This was higher than in all but four other states.

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4. Kentucky
> Pct. unemployed getting benefits:
20.0% (tied-7th lowest)
> Pct. average weekly wage covered:
37.5% (19th highest)
> Unemployment rate:
7.7% (5th highest)
> 1-yr. job growth:
0.3% (4th lowest)

Compared to the other worst states to be unemployed, Kentucky was generous with its unemployment insurance, offering 37.5% of the average weekly wage in benefits. However, it only apportioned benefits to 20% of total applicants, one of the lowest recipiency rates in the nation. The state’s slow one-year job growth of 0.3% will likely not help much in reducing Kentucky’s 7.7% unemployment rate, which is the fifth highest in the country. Still, those who received unemployment insurance received benefits for nearly 22 weeks, the longest period of any state in the country.

3. Michigan
> Pct. unemployed getting benefits:
23.0% (16th lowest)
> Pct. average weekly wage covered:
32.6% (18th lowest)
> Unemployment rate:
7.4% (7th highest)
> 1-yr. job growth:
0.6% (8th lowest)

Michigan’s unemployed workers received unemployment insurance benefits for an average of slightly more than 13 weeks. This was lower than in all but five other states and more than three weeks less than the average length nationwide. Additionally, only 23% of people who applied for unemployment insurance received benefits, among the lower recipiency rates for applications nationwide. These factors may lead some residents to take any job, including part-time work — Michigan’s high underemployment rate of 15.2% was one of the highest in the U.S. The state’s unemployment rate of 7.4% in April was also among the highest in the nation. Unfortunately, Michigan’s job growth of 0.6% does not bode well for the state’s unemployed.

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2. Alabama
> Pct. unemployed getting benefits:
24.0% (18th lowest)
> Pct. average weekly wage covered:
26.2% (6th lowest)
> Unemployment rate:
6.9% (tied-9th highest)
> 1-yr. job growth:
0.7% (10th lowest)

Alabama was one of the least generous states with its unemployment insurance, providing residents with only 26.2% of average weekly income. This was the sixth lowest coverage in the country. The recipiency rate was also slightly below the national rate of 27%. While unemployment was 6.9%, roughly in line with the national rate of 6.7%, underemployment in Alabama was a full percentage point lower than the national underemployment rate. This suggests that state residents found jobs commensurate with their skills and education, in spite of the slow job growth. In the 12 months through April, Alabama’s total nonfarm payrolls rose by just 0.7%, lower than 40 other states.

1. Mississippi
> Pct. unemployed getting benefits:
22.0% (14th lowest)
> Pct. average weekly wage covered:
28.3% (10th lowest)
> Unemployment rate:
7.5% (6th highest)
> 1-yr. job growth:
0.9% (16th lowest)

Mississippi is the worst state in the country to be unemployed. Recipients of unemployment insurance collected an average of just $194 a week, the only state offering unemployed residents less than $200 per week. This accounted for 28.3% of the average weekly wage in the year preceding April 2014, much lower than the 33% coverage unemployed Americans received nationwide. Moreover, only 22% of applicants received unemployment benefits, below the national recipiency rate of 27%. While Mississippi’s unemployment rate declined in recent years, it still remained 0.8 percentage points above the national rate.

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