The Best and Worst States to Be Unemployed

June 11, 2015 by Sam Stebbins

Since it peaked at 9.6% in 2010, the U.S. annual unemployment rate has declined every year, reaching 6.2% in 2014. While the country may be on the path to full recovery from the recession, many job gains have been in part-time and lower wage employment.

Meanwhile, federal unemployment benefits have been reduced, and in many states unemployment insurance is more difficult to access. When the six-month federal unemployment insurance benefit expired more than two years ago, 27% of jobless Americans received benefits, an all-time low. Since 2011, nine states reduced the number of weeks individuals could receive benefits.

To identify the best (and worst) states in which to be unemployed, 24/7 Wall St. ranked each state based on four indicators: the annual unemployment rate, the unemployment insurance recipiency rate, the weekly benefit amount as a percentage of the state’s weekly wages (known as the replacement rate), and the one-year job growth rate.

Click here to see the best (and worst) states in which to be unemployed. 

A state’s unemployment rate is one of the strongest indicators of a labor market’s health and how challenging it can be to find work. The unemployment rate in all of the 10 best states to be unemployed was lower than the national rate of 6.2%. On the other hand, in the 10 worst states to be unemployed it was above the national rate.

Whether the generosity of a state’s unemployment insurance (UI) system affects the health of the job market, if at all, is debatable. On one hand, states need to tax employers to ensure unemployment insurance funds are adequately funded to assist unemployed residents. On the other hand, some argue that the high taxes on employers prevents potential investment that could create more jobs. According to Rick McHugh, senior attorney at the National Employment Law Project (NELP), all state systems employ a feedback mechanism where taxes on employers go up as more people are paid unemployment benefits.

The forces at work in the labor market are both complex and often outside the control of state officials and any given UI system. For example, McHugh said the national economy can impact a state’s dominant industry — such as Michigan’s auto industry, Pennsylvania’s steel industry, or the oil industry in Texas.

When these industries suffer, it has an outsized impact on the labor market. While employers may end up paying more in taxes to offset an increase in insurance claims, overall contribution to the fund can decline with the lowered revenues of these industries. As a result, state UI systems are liable to cuts at a time when workers need help the most.

The recipiency rate, that is, how likely were unemployed residents to receive unemployment insurance, was generally higher in the best states to be unemployed. Also, the benefit amounts tended to be larger as a percentage of the average weekly wage. Generally, the opposite was true in the worst states to be unemployed. McHugh said this is among the most important questions for a worker: “what is their weekly benefit going to be, and how much of their prior wage is that going to replace?”

Even so, coverage is not especially high nationwide. Fewer than half of unemployed residents received insurance in all but four states. Similarly, Hawaii was the only state where the average weekly benefit amount covered more than half of the average weekly wage.

The percentage of unemployment insurance claimants who use up all of their benefits — known as the exhaustion rate — and the average number of weeks eligible unemployed individuals receive benefits — known as the duration period — also reflect how challenging it is to recover from joblessness in each state. The exhaustion rate in eight of the 10 best states to be unemployed did not exceed the national percentage of nearly 44%, while UI recipients in the worst states to be unemployed were generally more likely to completely exhaust their benefits.

To identify the best (and worst) states to be unemployed, 24/7 Wall St. generated a rank composed of four measures of each state’s labor market: the annual unemployment rate, the recipiency rate, the weekly benefit amount as a percentage of weekly wages, and the one-year job growth rate. Annual unemployment and underemployment rates came from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Non-farm job growth from June 2013 through June 2014 also came from the BLS. The recipiency rate and the replacement rate were measured over the 12 months through the first quarter of 2014 from the United States Department of Labor. The exhaustion rate and the duration claimants received UI benefits in weeks also came from the U.S. Department of Labor and were measured over the 12 months through the first quarter of 2014. Economic characteristics such as the poverty rate came from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS) and are for 2013, the most recent period available.

These are the best (and worst) states to be unemployed.

1. North Dakota
> Pct. unemployed getting benefits:
40.0% (tied -16th highest)
> Pct. average weekly wage covered: 45.1% (2nd highest)
> Unemployment rate: 2.8% (the lowest)
> 1-yr. job growth: 3.9% (the highest)

Of all 50 states, North Dakota has the most advantages and opportunities for its unemployed residents. North Dakota was home to both the lowest unemployment rate and the highest job growth rate in the country, at 2.8% and 3.9%, respectively. Due in part to the booming job market, a typical unemployed resident spent an average of 12.5 weeks looking for work, less time than in any other state except for Georgia and Idaho. Not only did unemployed residents spend less time finding employment, but those receiving unemployment insurance took home an average of $420.66 per week, the third highest benefit amount of all 50 states.

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2. Hawaii
> Pct. unemployed getting benefits:
44.0% (tied– 11th highest)
> Pct. average weekly wage covered: 52.0% (the highest)
> Unemployment rate: 4.4% (tied– 9th lowest)
> 1-yr. job growth: 1.0% (14th lowest)

Unemployed workers receiving insurance benefits in Hawaii received an average of $429.24 per week. Not only was the benefit amount the second highest in the country, it also covered 52% of the average working Hawaiian’s weekly wage, the highest coverage rate of all 50 states, and the only state in which more than half of the average wage was covered. Still, the average amount of time a Hawaiian resident spent looking for a job was 16.7 weeks, the same as the corresponding national figure. The state also had relatively slow job growth, at a rate of 1%.

3. Utah
> Pct. unemployed getting benefits:
28.0% (tied– 9th lowest)
> Pct. average weekly wage covered: 43.9% (3rd highest)
> Unemployment rate: 3.8% (4th lowest)
> 1-yr. job growth: 2.8% (8th highest)

A high job growth rate coupled with a low unemployment rate make Utah one of the best states for eligible workers looking for a job. It took 13.4 weeks for unemployed Utah residents to find a job, 3.3 weeks less than the national average. While only 28% of Utah’s unemployed received insurance benefits, those who did received $352.41 per week, the 12th highest dollar amount in the country. Also, the benefit covered 43.9% of the average weekly wages, the third highest such coverage.

4. Minnesota
> Pct. unemployed getting benefits:
44.0% (tied– 11th highest)
> Pct. average weekly wage covered: 39.7% (10th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 4.1% (tied– 5th lowest)
> 1-yr. job growth: 1.5% (22nd highest)

Of the total unemployed Minnesota residents, 44% were eligible to receive unemployment insurance benefits, the 11th highest recipiency rate. The average weekly unemployment benefit amount was $386.77, more than the amount in all but a handful of states. Minnesota’s unemployment rate has been dropping every year since 2009 when it was 7.8%. In 2014 it reached 4.1%. And the estimated rate for April of this year was even lower, at 3.7%.

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5. Iowa
> Pct. unemployed getting benefits:
40.0% (16th highest)
> Pct. average weekly wage covered: 43.6% (4th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 4.4% (tied– 9th lowest)
> 1-yr. job growth: 1.3% (23rd lowest)

At 4.4%, Iowa’s unemployment rate was 1.8 percentage points lower than the national rate. Similarly, underemployment was 8.4% in the state, more than 3.2 percentage points lower than the national rate. In addition, unemployed Iowa residents found jobs relatively quickly. It took unemployment insurance just 13.4 weeks to find a job in the state, the seventh lowest duration compared to other states.

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%.

11. Idaho
> Pct. unemployed getting benefits:
35.0% (tied– 22nd highest)
> Pct. average weekly wage covered: 39.0% (tied–12th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 4.8% (14th lowest)
> 1-yr. job growth: 2.6% (9th highest)

At a rate of 2.6%, Idaho had one of the fastest growing job markets in the country. The relatively fast job growth rate reflects a healthy economy in which finding a job was likely less challenging. Less than 30% of Idaho’s unemployment insurance benefit recipients used up their benefits before finding work, the fourth lowest rate in the country.

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12. Nebraska
> Pct. unemployed getting benefits:
31.0% (tied– 16th lowest)
> Pct. average weekly wage covered: 36.8% (23rd highest)
> Unemployment rate: 3.3% (2nd lowest)
> 1-yr. job growth: 1.4% (23rd highest)

In Nebraska, the unemployment rate and the underemployment rate were each well below the corresponding national rates. Due to its relatively strong economy, an unemployed worker only remained unemployed for an average of 12.6 weeks, the fourth shortest amount of time out of all 50 states.

13. Pennsylvania
> Pct. unemployed getting benefits:
56.0% (3rd highest)
> Pct. average weekly wage covered: 38.6% (tied–16th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 5.8% (tied– 27th lowest)
> 1-yr. job growth: 1.0% (12th lowest)

While the one-year job growth rate in Pennsylvania was relatively low, 56% of the state’s unemployed population qualified as claimants, the third highest rate behind New Jersey and Alaska. Those receiving benefits took home an average of $370.41 a week, the seventh highest such wage nationwide.

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14. Wyoming – Sam
> Pct. unemployed getting benefits:
33.0% (22nd lowest)
> Pct. average weekly wage covered: 42.2% (6th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 4.3% (tied– 8th lowest)
> 1-yr. job growth: 1.0% (15th lowest)

At an average of $360.15 per week — the eighth highest nationwide — unemployment insurance recipients in Wyoming took home $40.58 more than insurance recipients nationwide. Unemployment insurance recipients fared relatively well in Wyoming not only in dollar terms, but also relatively few exhausted their benefits before finding work. Wyoming’s benefit exhaustion rate of 34.7% was lower than the national rate of 43.7%.

15. Nevada
> Pct. unemployed getting benefits:
37.0% (tied– 20th highest)
> Pct. average weekly wage covered: 36.7% (24th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 7.8% (tied– the highest)
> 1-yr. job growth: 3.2% (3rd highest)

While Nevada was tied with Mississippi for the highest unemployment rate, it had the highest underemployment rate at 15.3% — 3.7 percentage points higher than the national rate. In April this year, the state’s estimated unemployment rate of 7.1% was the highest in the nation. Those receiving unemployment benefits in Nevada took home 36.7% of the average weekly wage in the state, roughly middle of the road compared to other states.

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.

21. Massachusetts
> Pct. unemployed getting benefits:
46.0% (8th highest)
> Pct. average weekly wage covered: 36.5% (tied–25th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 5.8% (tied–22nd lowest)
> 1-yr. job growth: 1.3% (25th lowest)

Massachusetts residents are wealthy compared to most Americans. The average weekly wage of $1,182.66 was the third highest nationwide. And while eligible unemployed state residents received just 36.5% of the typical weekly wage in benefits, the amount — $433.14 — was the highest nationwide.

22. California
> Pct. unemployed getting benefits:
43.0% (tied–14th highest)
> Pct. average weekly wage covered: 27.5% (7th lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 7.5% (4th highest)
> 1-yr. job growth: 3.0% (4th highest)

Californian workers earned $1,095.70 per week on average, the fifth highest wage in the country. With unemployment benefits, however, jobless residents received just $299.67 per week, lower than the national average benefit. Last year, 7.5% of California’s workforce was unemployed, the fourth highest rate nationwide. When considering the underemployed — those working part time or that have given up on finding work — the state’s underemployment rate is nearly 15%, the second highest nationwide. Underemployed residents are not eligible for unemployment benefits.

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23. Texas
> Pct. unemployed getting benefits:
28.0% (tied–9th lowest)
> Pct. average weekly wage covered: 35.3% (tied–23rd lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 5.1% (16th lowest)
> 1-yr. job growth: 2.9% (7th highest)

Texas had a relatively low unemployment rate and strong job growth rate from June 2013 to June 2014. However, living without a job may still be relatively difficult in the state. Just 28% of unemployed Texans received unemployment insurance — one of the lower such rates. Also, nearly half of recipients used up all benefits available to them, the sixth highest exhaustion rate nationwide, indicating many have exhausted their benefits before finding a job.

24. New York
> Pct. unemployed getting benefits:
47.0% (tied– 6th highest)
> Pct. average weekly wage covered: 25.4% (4th lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 6.3% (tied–20th highest)
> 1-yr. job growth: 1.7% (19th highest)

The average weekly wage of New York’s workers was $1,214.11, the highest in the nation. Unemployment insurance recipients, however, received far lower benefits. At slightly more than $300 per week it was lower than the comparable national figure of $319.57. The relatively low payout could be partly related to the relatively long duration of the benefits of 19 weeks and to New York’s relatively high recipiency rate of 47% — often, the higher each of these are, the faster the state’s UI trust fund will be depleted.

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25. Delaware
> Pct. unemployed getting benefits:
43.0% (tied–14th highest)
> Pct. average weekly wage covered: 24.6% (the lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 5.7% (tied–19th lowest)
> 1-yr. job growth: 2.4% (13th highest)

The average job in Delaware paid more than $1,000 per week, a higher weekly wage than in all but a handful of states. However, unemployment insurance recipients reported an average benefit amount of less than one-quarter of the average weekly wage figure. While this was the lowest proportion nationwide, a typical unemployed worker in Delaware was able to receive benefits for more than 20 weeks, the second longest such duration after only Kentucky. In addition, with one of the higher recipiency rates in the country at 43%, jobless Delaware residents had a relatively strong chance of receiving unemployment insurance.

26. West Virginia
> Pct. unemployed getting benefits:
47.0% (tied–6th highest)
> Pct. average weekly wage covered: 36.5% (tied–25th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 6.5% (tied–15th highest)
> 1-yr. job growth: -0.7% (the lowest)

While West Virginia’s unemployment rate of 6.5% was only slightly higher than the nation’s 6.2% rate, the state’s underemployment rate of nearly 13% was the ninth highest in the country. Many more underemployed people, including part-time workers and discouraged workers no longer seeking employment, are not eligible for unemployment insurance. It may also be more difficult to find a job in West Virginia than in many other states. The number of jobs in West Virginia fell slightly from June 2013 to June 2014, the worst job growth rate of any state.

27. Florida
> Pct. unemployed getting benefits:
26.0% (8th lowest)
> Pct. average weekly wage covered: 27.6% (tied–8th lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 6.3% (tied–20th highest)
> 1-yr. job growth: 3.0% (5th highest)

Eligible unemployed Floridians received $137.14 per week on average, less than half the national figure and the lowest weekly benefit amount in the nation. Just 26% of the state’s unemployed residents received benefits, the eighth lowest recipiency rate in the country. Of the people receiving benefits, nearly two-thirds exhausted them completely before finding a job, the highest exhaustion rate nationwide. Still, it may be easier to find jobs in Florida, as the number of jobs grew by 3% from June 2013 to June 2014, the fifth fastest growth rate nationwide.

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28. Arkansas
> Pct. unemployed getting benefits:
32.0% (tied–18th lowest)
> Pct. average weekly wage covered: 39.0% (tied–12th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 6.1% (tied–23rd highest)
> 1-yr. job growth: 1.3% (21st lowest)

Arkansas was less generous to its unemployed workers than most other states. It was one of only seven states where the maximum time an individual could collect unemployment insurance was less than 26 weeks. For those collecting unemployment insurance, the average weekly benefit was $289.75, less than the national average benefit by almost $30.

29. Connecticut
> Pct. unemployed getting benefits:
52.0% (4th highest)
> Pct. average weekly wage covered: 28.8% (11th lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 6.6% (tied–13th highest)
> 1-yr. job growth: 0.4% (3rd lowest)

At $1,199.72, Connecticut had the second highest average weekly wage in the country. However, the average unemployment insurance claimant received only 28.8% of this amount, the 11th lowest proportion in the nation. More than half of the state’s unemployed population received unemployment insurance, one of only four states where the recipiency rate exceeded 50%. Connecticut’s 6.6% unemployment rate was nearly half a percentage point higher than the national unemployment rate.

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30. Maine
> Pct. unemployed getting benefits:
35.0% (tied–22nd highest)
> Pct. average weekly wage covered: 38.8% (15th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 5.7% (tied–19th lowest)
> 1-yr. job growth: 0.5% (4th lowest)

With a job growth rate of 0.5%, Maine’s labor market was not especially vibrant, and likely made finding a job more difficult for the state’s population looking for work. The job growth rate was the fourth lowest of all states and 1.4 percentage points lower than the national growth rate. Still, unemployed Maine residents spent less time looking for work than in the rest of the country. An unemployment insurance claimant in Maine collected benefits for an average of 14.9 weeks, nearly a full week less than the national average duration.

31. Georgia
> Pct. unemployed getting benefits:
32.0% (tied–18th lowest)
> Pct. average weekly wage covered: 30.0% (13th lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 7.2% (6th highest)
> 1-yr. job growth: 3.0% (6th highest)

Despite a few, very positive statistics, Georgia is not an ideal state to be unemployed in. At an average of 11 weeks, unemployed Georgians spent less time on unemployment insurance than residents of any other state in the country. Also, Georgia had a very strong job growth rate of 3.0%, the sixth highest nationwide. However, the state had a high unemployment rate of 7.2%, the sixth highest nationwide. Unemployment insurance claimants received one of the lowest benefit payments of just $268 per week compared to the national average of $319.

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32. New Hampshire
> Pct. unemployed getting benefits:
25.0% (7th lowest)
> Pct. average weekly wage covered: 30.6% (14th lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 4.3% (tied–7th lowest)
> 1-yr. job growth: 1.3% (22nd lowest)

While New Hampshire’s unemployment rate was seventh lowest in the country, the reality for those who were unemployed was relatively harsh. Only 25% of New Hampshire’s unemployed residents qualified for insurance benefits, the seventh lowest proportion in the country. While a relatively small percentage of unemployed state residents received insurance, many who did were able to find a job before the benefits ran out. Just over 26% of New Hampshire residents exhausted their unemployment benefits. Only South Dakota and Vermont had a lower exhaustion rate.

33. New Mexico
> Pct. unemployed getting benefits:
34.0% (tied–24th lowest)
> Pct. average weekly wage covered: 39.8% (9th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 6.5% (tied–15th highest)
> 1-yr. job growth: 0.6% (6th lowest)

At 0.6%, Mexico’s job growth rate was the sixth lowest in the country and 1.3 percentage points lower than the national rate. The maximum amount of time an individual can receive unemployment insurance benefits in the state was 26 weeks. However, this time was insufficient for the 48% of unemployed state residents who exhausted their benefits before finding a job. Many New Mexico residents struggling to find work were likely also living in poverty. The state’s poverty rate of nearly 22% was second highest in the country after only Mississippi.

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34. Ohio
> Pct. unemployed getting benefits:
29.0% (tied–13th lowest)
> Pct. average weekly wage covered: 37.7% (18th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 5.7% (tied–19th lowest)
> 1-yr. job growth: 1.3% (20th lowest)

On the spectrum of the 50 states’ unemployment rates, Ohio falls close to the middle. Though the state’s unemployment rate of 5.7% had fallen considerably over the past five years, it was still much higher than its all-time low of just 3.8% in April of 2001. Of the state’s unemployed residents, only 29% collected insurance benefits, one of the lower rates in the country. Though this proportion was relatively low, the average weekly dollar amount brought home by a claimant was $331, slightly higher than the national average. This was also equal to nearly 38% of the weekly wage for employed residents, one of the higher proportions nationwide.

35. North Carolina
> Pct. unemployed getting benefits:
29.0% (tied–13th lowest)
> Pct. average weekly wage covered: 32.9% (tied–19th lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 6.1% (tied–23rd highest)
> 1-yr. job growth: 2.3% (14th highest)

Unemployment insurance claimants in North Carolina received $229.27 per week, one of the lowest weekly benefit amounts nationwide and equal to less than 33% of the state’s average weekly wage. Nearly 47% of insurance recipients exhausted their benefits, and unemployed state residents spent nearly 18 weeks receiving benefits before finding a job, each the 10th highest such figures in the country.

36. South Carolina
> Pct. unemployed getting benefits:
28.0% (tied–9th lowest)
> Pct. average weekly wage covered: 32.9% (tied–19th lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 6.4% (tied–18th highest)
> 1-yr. job growth: 2.5% (11th highest)

At 6.4%, South Carolina’s unemployment rate was roughly in line with the national rate. However, of those receiving unemployment insurance benefits, only 41.5% of South Carolina’s residents exhausted their benefits compared to 43.7% across the country. Similarly, South Carolina unemployment insurance claimants were able to find work in 12.6 weeks on average, four weeks less than the national average duration period.

37. Oklahoma
> Pct. unemployed getting benefits:
24.0% (tied–5th lowest)
> Pct. average weekly wage covered: 37.1% (21st highest)
> Unemployment rate: 4.5% (tied–11th lowest)
> 1-yr. job growth: 0.9% (10th lowest)

Oklahoma’s unemployment rate of 4.5% was lower than in most states. However, with only 24% of unemployed residents receiving insurance benefits, Oklahoma had one of the lowest recipiency rates. Furthermore, more than half of all recipients exhausted their benefits before finding a job, indicating that the available benefits may have been insufficient in addressing the needs of the state’s unemployed residents.

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38. Maryland
> Pct. unemployed getting benefits:
38.0% (19th highest)
> Pct. average weekly wage covered: 32.9% (tied–19th lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 5.8% (tied–22nd lowest)
> 1-yr. job growth: 1.0% (16th lowest)

Maryland residents are wealthier than most Americans. This did not seem to make life much easier for unemployed residents. Unemployment insurance claimants received $327.34 per week on average, less than a third of the average weekly wage of employed residents. While the benefit amount was higher than the national figure, the proportion of the weekly wage it covered was lower than in most states. Claimants also spent more than 17 weeks without a job, and more than 45% exhausted their benefits — each among the larger figures in the country.

39. Kentucky
> Pct. unemployed getting benefits:
29.0% (tied–13th lowest)
> Pct. average weekly wage covered: 37.5% (19th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 6.5% (tied–15th highest)
> 1-yr. job growth: 1.6% (21st highest)

On average, Kentucky unemployment insurance claimants did not find their way out of unemployment for more than 21 weeks, the longest duration in the nation. And more than 45% exhausted their benefits, one of the higher percentages in the country. While Kentucky’s unemployment rate of 6.5% was only slightly higher than the national rate of 6.2%, the underemployment rate of 10.7% was lower than the comparable national rate of 11.6%.

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40. Rhode Island
> Pct. unemployed getting benefits:
35.0% (tied–22nd highest)
> Pct. average weekly wage covered: 38.6% (tied–16th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 7.7% (3rd highest)
> 1-yr. job growth: 1.2% (17th lowest)

The unemployment rate in Rhode Island was the third highest in the country. The state’s underemployment rate of 12.9% was also relatively high, 1.3 percentage points higher than the corresponding national rate. Though Rhode Island’s job market was tough, with both a relatively high unemployment rate and only a 1.2% job growth rate, the state was relatively generous to its unemployed. Those receiving unemployment insurance benefits took home an average of $347 per week, higher than the comparable wage figure in most states.

41. Indiana
> Pct. unemployed getting benefits:
28.0% (tied–9th lowest)
> Pct. average weekly wage covered: 30.8% (16th lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 6.0% (25th lowest)
> 1-yr. job growth: 1.8% (17th highest)

Less than 32% of unemployment insurance claimants in Indiana exhausted their benefits before finding a job, one of the lowest such percentages nationwide. In contrast, nearly 44% of recipients across the country exhausted their benefits. While the relatively low exhaustion rate suggests the state’s unemployment insurance system may be adequate for many residents trying to return to full employment, the state is still not especially favorable for the unemployed. For example, 28% of unemployed Indiana residents qualified for benefits, one of the lower recipiency rates. In addition, claimants recouped $253.93 per week in benefits, less than 31% the state’s average weekly wage — both among the lower figures nationwide.

42. Michigan
> Pct. unemployed getting benefits:
34.0% (tied–24th lowest)
> Pct. average weekly wage covered: 32.6% (18th lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 7.3% (5th highest)
> 1-yr. job growth: 2.1% (15th highest)

Beyond Michigan’s unemployment insurance system, which is not especially generous, the state’s job market is relatively weak. More than 7% of Michigan’s workforce was unemployed and 13.1% were underemployed, each the fifth highest rate nationwide. On the other hand, the state’s one-year job growth rate as of June last year was more than 2%, one of the higher growth rates. Job growth likely helped improve job prospects for job seekers. Unemployment insurance claimants spent just over 13 weeks collecting benefits, less time than most unemployed job seekers across the country.

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43. Illinois
> Pct. unemployed getting benefits:
37.0% (tied–20th highest)
> Pct. average weekly wage covered: 32.3% (17th lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 7.1% (7th highest)
> 1-yr. job growth: 1.3% (18th lowest)

In Illinois, 37% of unemployed workers received unemployment benefits, more than most states and significantly higher than in the worst states to be unemployed. People in Illinois remained unemployed for a longer duration than in many other states. On average, it took an unemployed worker in Illinois nearly 18 weeks to find a job, the 10th longest period of time in the country. At 7.1% the unemployment rate in Illinois was the seventh highest in the country and almost a full percentage point higher than the rate nationwide.

44. Missouri
> Pct. unemployed getting benefits:
32.0% (tied–18th lowest)
> Pct. average weekly wage covered: 29.5% (12th lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 6.1% (tied–23rd highest)
> 1-yr. job growth: 1.0% (13th lowest)

Missouri residents receiving unemployment insurance benefits took home an average of $245 per week. This was the eighth lowest amount in the country and was about $574 less than the average weekly earnings for employed state residents. The money paid out for unemployment insurance is meant to ease financial hardship over a designated period of time while an individual finds work. However, the state’s annual job growth rate was just 1%. This may have contributed to the nearly 46% of unemployed Missouri residents receiving benefits who exhausted their coverage.

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45. Tennessee
> Pct. unemployed getting benefits:
23.0% (tied–3rd lowest)
> Pct. average weekly wage covered: 27.6% (tied–8th lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 6.7% (12th highest)
> 1-yr. job growth: 1.9% (16th highest)

Tennessee had one of the least generous unemployment insurance systems. The average weekly benefit amount was $223.44, one of the lowest wage figures, and it covered less than 28% of the average weekly wage of employed residents. It was fairly uncommon to qualify for unemployment benefits in the first place, as just 23% of unemployed Tennessee workers received benefits, the third lowest recipiency rate nationwide. On the other hand, the state had relatively strong job growth, which increases the likelihood of job prospects for unemployed Tennesseans.

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.