Special Report

The Best and Worst States to Be Unemployed

46. Virginia
> Pct. unemployed getting benefits:
22.0% (2nd lowest)
> Pct. average weekly wage covered: 30.7% (15th lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 5.2% (17th lowest)
> 1-yr. job growth: 0.6% (5th lowest)

While Virginia’s unemployment rate was lower than in most states, life was tougher for those who were unemployed. Only 22% of Virginians looking for work received unemployment insurance, the second lowest rate nationwide. Though unemployment benefits help relieve some financial stress, the state’s average weekly benefit amount was less than 31% of the average weekly wage across the state, the 15th lowest proportion in all 50 states. In addition, 48% of unemployment insurance recipients used up all of their benefits, the seventh highest exhaustion rate in the country. It may be more difficult to find a job in Virginia than in many other states, as jobs in the state grew at one of the slowest rates compared to the rest of the country.

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47. Arizona
> Pct. unemployed getting benefits:
24.0% (tied–5th lowest)
> Pct. average weekly wage covered: 25.3% (3rd lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 6.9% (tied–8th highest)
> 1-yr. job growth: 1.8% (18th highest)

Nearly 7% of Arizona’s workforce was unemployed, one of the highest jobless rates in the country. The state’s underemployment rate was more than double the unemployment figure, at 14.3% — the third highest nationwide. Underemployed workers such as those working part-time despite needing full-time work and people no longer looking for jobs are not eligible for unemployment insurance benefits. Less than one-quarter of the state’s unemployed population qualified for unemployment benefits, tied with Oklahoma for the 5th lowest recipiency rate in the country.

48. Louisiana
> Pct. unemployed getting benefits:
23.0% (tied–3rd lowest)
> Pct. average weekly wage covered: 24.8% (2nd lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 6.4% (tied–18th highest)
> 1-yr. job growth: 1.3% (25th highest)

As in most of the 10 worst states to be unemployed, Louisiana’s poverty rate of nearly 20% was among the highest in the nation. Just 23% of unemployed workers received unemployment insurance, the third lowest recipiency rate. And those who received the benefit received relatively little at $210.95 per week, the fourth lowest wage figure. The benefit amount was also less than 25% of the average weekly wage of employed residents, the second smallest proportion after Delaware. While finding a job while unemployed in Louisiana is more difficult than in many other states, less than 31% of insurance recipients completely exhausted their benefits, one of the lowest percentages. This suggests that many jobless Louisiana residents receiving benefits were at least able to find a job in a reasonably short period of time.

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49. Alabama
> Pct. unemployed getting benefits:
31.0% (tied–16th lowest)
> Pct. average weekly wage covered: 26.2% (6th lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 6.8% (tied–10th highest)
> 1-yr. job growth: 0.8% (8th lowest)

A typical eligible unemployed Alabama resident received $209.54 per week, the third lowest benefit amount nationwide. This was also just 26.2% of the average weekly wage of employed residents, the sixth smallest such proportion. While Alabama’s jobless rate of 6.8% was the 10th highest in the nation, only 31% of unemployed residents received insurance benefits, one of the lower recipiency rates. The employment outlook was also not especially good in the state — the total number of jobs had grown slower than in all but seven other states from June 2013 to June 2014.

50. Mississippi
> Pct. unemployed getting benefits:
32.0% (tied–12th lowest)
> Pct. average weekly wage covered: 28.3% (10th lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 7.8% (tied–the highest)
> 1-yr. job growth: 0.7% (7th lowest)

Based on a range of labor statistics, Mississippi is the worst state in the nation to be unemployed. Nearly 8% of the state’s workforce was unemployed last year, tied with Nevada for the highest jobless rate nationwide. The job market has not improved meaningfully, either. The number of jobs has grown at one of the slowest rates in the country from June 2013 to June 2014. Working Mississippians earned the lowest average weekly wage in the country at $686.42. Those relying on unemployment benefits received an average weekly benefit amount of $196.84, the second lowest in the nation. The benefit amount was equal to 28.3% of the average weekly wage, one of the lowest such proportions.

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