Special Report

The Best (and Worst) States to Be Unemployed

10. Oregon
>Pct. unemployed getting benefits:
30.4% (19th highest)
> Pct. average weekly wage covered: 40.1% (15th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 4.5% (24th lowest)
> 1-yr. job growth: 3.5% (3rd highest)

Because of Oregon’s strengthening job market many jobless residents are employed today. The 3.5% growth in total non-farm employment in the state over the past year was the third most of any state. Also, Oregon’s 1.2 percentage point decline in the unemployment rate was among the largest improvements in the country. For those on unemployment insurance, the benefits are relatively extensive. Average weekly UI payments account for 40.1% of the state’s average weekly wage, more than the 33.9% national replacement rate.

9. Montana
>Pct. unemployed getting benefits:
40.0% (7th highest)
> Pct. average weekly wage covered: 42.9% (8th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 4.2% (18th lowest)
> 1-yr. job growth: 1.3% (15th lowest)

The Montana Department of Labor and Industry offers some of the most comprehensive UI benefits in the country. The department insures two in every five unemployed residents, the seventh highest recipiency rate of any state. Also, the average UI payment covers 42.9% of the state’s average weekly wage, the eighth highest replacement rate nationwide. Montana has been able to maintain wide UI coverage despite increasing unemployment in the state. Over the past 12 months, while the national unemployment rate declined by 0.4 percentage points, Montana’s unemployment rate rose by 0.2 percentage points.

8. Iowa
>Pct. unemployed getting benefits:
39.7% (8th highest)
> Pct. average weekly wage covered: 45.6% (3rd highest)
> Unemployment rate: 3.9% (15th lowest)
> 1-yr. job growth: 1.3% (16th lowest)

For those unemployed in Iowa, the state offers some of the most comprehensive UI benefits in the country. The average UI payment covers 45.6% of Iowa’s average weekly wage, the third highest replacement rate nationwide. Also, just about one in four UI recipients exhaust their entire 26 weeks of allotted benefits before going off insurance, the sixth lowest exhaustion rate.

7. Idaho
>Pct. unemployed getting benefits:
25.3% (21st lowest)
> Pct. average weekly wage covered: 41.5% (10th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 3.7% (10th lowest)
> 1-yr. job growth: 3.8% (the highest)

No state had greater job growth than Idaho over the past 12 months. Employment grew by 3.8%, twice the 1.9% national job growth rate. At the same time, the state’s unemployment rate dropped 0.5 percentage points to 3.7%, one of the lowest in the country.

The average UI payment in Idaho accounts for 41.5% of the state’s average weekly wage, more substantial substitution than the the national 33.9% replacement rate. Idaho’s UI program services just 25.3% of the state’s unemployed, however, somewhat modest coverage compared to the national 27.3% recipiency rate.

6. Colorado
>Pct. unemployed getting benefits:
31.7% (18th highest)
> Pct. average weekly wage covered: 39.7% (17th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 3.1% (4th lowest)
> 1-yr. job growth: 2.7% (11th highest)

Compared to most states with a highly positive outlook for unemployed residents, Colorado has an unusually high unemployment benefit exhaustion rate. More than 45% of Colorado residents are likely to go through the maximum 26 weeks without getting another job. Only five other states have an exhaustion rate greater than 45%.

Still, for many other reasons, it is better to be without a job in Colorado than in most other states. UI benefits pay an average of $402.47 weekly, the seventh highest average amount in the country. The state also has one of the lowest unemployment rates and one of the fastest job growth rates, which means the state’s jobless have a higher chance finding a job.

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