Special Report

The Best (and Worst) States to Be Unemployed

5. Utah
>Pct. unemployed getting benefits:
22.8% (18th lowest)
> Pct. average weekly wage covered: 45.2% (4th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 3.7% (10th lowest)
> 1-yr. job growth: 3.4% (4th highest)

The average weekly UI benefits in Utah account for 45.2% of the state’s average weekly wage, the fourth highest replacement rate in the country. While Utah’s UI recipients can receive benefits for a maximum of 26 weeks, the average recipient is on UI for just 12.1 weeks, nearly the shortest duration of any state. Likewise, only 27.6% of recipients remain on UI for the entire 26 weeks compared to the 37.6% national exhaustion rate.

Utah has one of the fastest growing job markets in the country, adding about 47,000 employees in the last year. While the 3.4% job growth was the fourth fastest of any state, Utah’s unemployment rate rose by 0.2 percentage points even as the national unemployment rate fell by 0.4 percentage points. Nevertheless, even as the state’s unemployed population grew, Utah managed to maintain its 23% UI recipiency rate.

4. Vermont
>Pct. unemployed getting benefits:
39.4% (9th highest)
> Pct. average weekly wage covered: 40.1% (16th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 3.2% (tied- 7th lowest)
> 1-yr. job growth: 1.9% (21st highest)

Nationally, 37.6% of people who go on unemployment insurance receive benefits for the entire allotted time. In Vermont, just 16.5% of people on UI exhaust their 26 weeks of benefits, the second lowest rate in the country behind only South Dakota. The low exhaustion rate is unsurprising given the state’s relatively low unemployment rate. Just 3.2% of the state’s workforce is unemployed, tied for the fifth lowest jobless rate in the country. Likely due to the state’s favorable employment situation, the number of people applying for unemployment insurance benefits declined substantially last year.

3. Minnesota
>Pct. unemployed getting benefits:
47.8% (4th highest)
> Pct. average weekly wage covered: 42.8% (9th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 3.8% (12th lowest)
> 1-yr. job growth: 1.4% (22nd lowest)

Minnesota’s UI program allows for beneficiaries to receive a weekly maximum of $629 for a maximum of 26 weeks, each among the most of any state. The average payment accounts for 42.8% of the state’s average weekly wage, much more than the 33.9% national replacement rate. Minnesota’s UI program is comprehensive in both subsidy and coverage. Of the state’s unemployed residents, 47.8% receive unemployment insurance, the fourth highest recipiency rate nationwide.

2. North Dakota
>Pct. unemployed getting benefits:
74.0% (the highest)
> Pct. average weekly wage covered: 53.2% (the highest)
> Unemployment rate: 3.2% (tied- 7th lowest)
> 1-yr. job growth: -3.8% (the lowest)

North Dakota’s recent oil boom has begun to flag due to continuing depressed oil prices. While the state’s unemployment rate is still relatively low, the number of North Dakotans submitting claims for unemployment insurance increased by 37.4% last year, by far the largest increase in applications of any state.

Those residents newly receiving UI benefits are likely to fare better than those in nearly any other state. The state pays out an average of $520.64 each week, or 53.2% of the the average weekly wage, both the highest in the country.

1. Hawaii
>Pct. unemployed getting benefits:
32.6% (16th highest)
> Pct. average weekly wage covered: 50.8% (2nd highest)
> Unemployment rate: 3.2% (tied- 7th lowest)
> 1-yr. job growth: 2.0% (20th highest)

In the past 12 months, Hawaii’s unemployment rate fell by 0.6 percentage points to 3.2%, tied as the fifth lowest of any state. Since then, there have been 21.5% fewer unemployment claims in the state, the fifth largest drop nationwide.

Hawaii is one of two states in which the average UI payment covers more than half of the state’s average weekly wage. The substantial subsidy helps Hawaii’s unemployed as they attempt to reenter the job market. Just 27.8% of recipients exhaust their benefits, much less than the 37.6% national exhaustion rate.

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