Special Report

The Best and Worst States to Be Unemployed

6. Colorado
> Pct. unemployed getting benefits:
33.0% (tied– 22nd lowest)
> Pct. average weekly wage covered: 37.0% (22nd highest)
> Unemployment rate: 5.0% (15th lowest)
> 1-yr. job growth: 3.3% (2nd highest)

Colorado was one of only a few states where more than half of unemployment insurance recipients completely exhausted their benefits. This often indicates that recipients may have needed more time than the allotted insurance duration to find a job. However, the weekly payout for eligible unemployed persons was $357.69, the ninth highest figure. The benefit amount also made up 37% of Colorado’s average weekly wage, one of the higher proportions compared to other states. In addition, the state’s one-year job growth rate in June last year was more than 3%, the second highest growth rate nationwide.

7. Vermont
> Pct. unemployed getting benefits:
45.0% (tied– 9th highest)
> Pct. average weekly wage covered: 39.6% (11th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 4.1% (tied– 5th lowest)
> 1-yr. job growth: 0.9% (11th lowest)

Vermont had nearly the lowest exhaustion rate of any state, at less than 20%, indicating that many unemployed workers were able to find a job before running out of insurance payments. Also, unemployment insurance was relatively accessible compared to other state systems with 45% of unemployed workers qualifying for unemployment benefits, the ninth highest percentage. Not only was Vermont’s unemployment rate of 4.1% one of the lowest in the nation, but also the state’s underemployment rate of 8.6% was lower than all but a handful of states.

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8. Kansas
> Pct. unemployed getting benefits:
35.0% (tied– 22nd highest)
> Pct. average weekly wage covered: 43.2% (5th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 4.5% (tied– 11th lowest)
> 1-yr. job growth: 1.7% (20th highest)

The average amount of money unemployment insurance claimants took home per week in Kansas was $351.69, the 13th highest in the country. What’s more, the average benefit amount was 43.2% of the average weekly wage, the fifth largest proportion. Not only was the unemployment relatively low in Kansas, but at 8.8%, the underemployment rate was also the 10th lowest in the country. The state’s relatively strong job growth rate of 1.7% may have helped make the job climate more favorable for unemployed residents seeking work. It took the average Kansas resident 15.6 weeks to find a job, among the shorter such durations.

9. Montana
> Pct. unemployed getting benefits:
44.0% (tied– 11th highest)
> Pct. average weekly wage covered: 41.5% (7th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 4.7% (13th lowest)
> 1-yr. job growth: 1.3% (24th lowest)

Montana’s unemployment rate of 4.7% was the 13th lowest compared to all states, and the relatively strong job market likely improved the prospects of job seekers in the state. The average weekly wage in Montana was $706.34, nearly the lowest wage nationwide. However, the average benefit amount in the state was equal to 41.5% of the weekly wage, the seventh highest coverage in the country. Unemployed Montana residents were also among the most likely to qualify for unemployment insurance, with a recipiency rate of 44%, the 11th highest in the nation.

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10. South Dakota
> Pct. unemployed getting benefits:
16.0% (the lowest)
> Pct. average weekly wage covered: 40.2% (8th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 3.4% (3rd lowest)
> 1-yr. job growth: 1.4% (24th highest)

South Dakota had an exceptionally low recipiency rate compared to many of the best states in which to be unemployed. Just 16% of the state’s unemployed population received benefits, the lowest such percentage in the nation. However, the state had a number of redeeming factors. For unemployed insurance recipients, more than 40% of the average weekly wage was covered, the eighth highest percentage. The state’s labor market was also relatively healthy, with an unemployment rate of just 3.4%.