Special Report

The Best and Worst States to Be Unemployed

16. Oregon
> Pct. unemployed getting benefits:
45.0% (tied– 9th highest)
> Pct. average weekly wage covered: 37.3% (20th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 6.9% (tied– 8th highest)
> 1-yr. job growth: 2.5% (10th highest)

Despite a 2.5% job growth rate, the 10th highest in the country, Oregon grappled with serious unemployment problems. The average unemployment insurance recipient spent 18.2 weeks collecting unemployment benefits, among the 10 lengthiest durations in the country. The state also had both a high unemployment rate and a high underemployment rate, at 6.9% and 13.1%, respectively.

17. Wisconsin
> Pct. unemployed getting benefits:
50.0% (5th highest)
> Pct. average weekly wage covered: 34.1% (22nd lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 5.5% (18th lowest)
> 1-yr. job growth: 1.3% (19th lowest)

Despite a relatively slow job growth rate, Wisconsin is a better state to be unemployed in than most. Half of the state’s unemployed population received insurance benefits, the fifth highest such proportion in the country. Though relatively more unemployed Wisconsin residents received benefits, the payout of $290.33 was lower than in most other states.

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18. New Jersey
> Pct. unemployed getting benefits:
61.0% (2nd highest)
> Pct. average weekly wage covered: 35.3% (tied–23rd lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 6.6% (tied– 13th highest)
> 1-yr. job growth: 0.8% (9th lowest)

New Jersey’s unemployment rate was higher than the national rate, and the yearly job growth rate as of last last June was relatively slow. Otherwise, New Jersey’s unemployment insurance system was fairly generous. The average weekly benefit amount was $409.52, the fourth highest benefit amount. And 61% of unemployed New Jersey workers qualified for unemployment insurance, second only to Alaska.

19. Washington
> Pct. unemployed getting benefits:
39.0% (18th highest)
> Pct. average weekly wage covered: 38.9% (14th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 6.2% (22nd highest)
> 1-yr. job growth: 2.5% (12th highest)

Employed and unemployed Washington residents each had relatively high wages. The average weekly wage of $1,005.74 and the weekly benefit amount of $387.01 were the seventh and fifth highest, respectively. Roughly one-third of eligible unemployed residents completely exhausted their benefits, one of the lowest exhaustion rates nationwide. A low exhaustion rate often means many unemployed residents were able to find employment in a reasonable amount of time. Market conditions, such as the state’s relatively strong job growth, may favor job seekers.

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20. Alaska
> Pct. unemployed getting benefits:
70.0% (the highest)
> Pct. average weekly wage covered: 25.8% (5th lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 6.8% (tied–10th highest)
> 1-yr. job growth: 0.3% (2nd lowest)

Unemployed Alaskans are the most likely to qualify for unemployment insurance, with a nation high recipiency rate of 70%. The average weekly benefit amount of $251.68 was less than 26% the state’s average weekly wage of $966.22, however, nearly the smallest replacement rate compared to other states. Nearly 56% of insurance recipients exhausted all of their benefits, the second-highest exhaustion rate, indicating many job seekers struggled to find a job. Alaska had the second-slowest job growth rate, at just 0.3% from June 2013 to June 2014.

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