Special Report

Best (and Worst) States to Be Unemployed

Best states to be unemployed:

Source: Thinkstock

10. Minnesota
> Pct. unemployed receiving benefits: 41.0% (7th highest)
> Pct. of average weekly wage covered: 42.2% (10th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 3.9% (13th lowest)
> 1-yr. job growth: 0.7% (16th smallest increase)

Minnesota has some of the most comprehensive unemployment insurance coverage in the country. More than 40% of unemployed workers in the state receive jobless benefits, the seventh highest rate nationwide. Unemployment benefits in the state average $434 a week, a larger sum than in all but four states. The average benefits payment amounts to 42.2% of the state’s average weekly wage, compared to only 34.1% nationwide.

Minnesota also has a relatively healthy job market overall. Just 3.9% of the workforce is unemployed, below the 4.9% national rate.

Source: Thinkstock

9. Idaho
> Pct. unemployed receiving benefits: 25.0% (21st lowest)
> Pct. of average weekly wage covered: 42.0% (11th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 3.8% (11th lowest)
> 1-yr. job growth: 2.6% (10th largest increase)

Incomes are relatively low in Idaho, and unemployment benefits supplement a large share of the earnings lost to joblessness. While unemployment benefits in the state average just $312 a week, they cover 42% of the average Idaho worker’s weekly paycheck. By comparison, the $344 average benefit nationwide covers just 34% of weekly earnings for the average U.S. worker.

Over the past year, Idaho’s economy grew at a faster rate than that of a majority of states. As employment increased by 2.6% — faster than the 1.7% national rate — unemployment fell from 4.2% to 3.8%. The increased economic activity likely reduced dependency on unemployment insurance in the state. In 2016, unemployed workers in Idaho spent just 11 weeks on average on unemployment, the fifth shortest duration of any state.

Source: Thinkstock

8. Montana
> Pct. unemployed receiving benefits: 37.0% (11th highest)
> Pct. of average weekly wage covered: 43.8% (8th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 4.1% (17th lowest)
> 1-yr. job growth: 1.3% (25th smallest increase)

Out of work Montanans are more likely than those in most states to receive unemployment benefits. While 28% of jobless Americans receive such benefits, 37% of unemployed Montanans do. Further, those benefits tend to be more generous in the state than elsewhere. The average weekly benefits, at $333, are actually slightly below the national average figure of $344. However, the average weekly wage in Montana, which has a very low cost of living, is just $759, compared to a national average weekly wage of just over $1,000. As a result, the unemployment benefits replace about 44% of lost wages, 10 percentage points above the national rate.

Source: Thinkstock

7. Oregon
> Pct. unemployed receiving benefits: 30.0% (21st highest)
> Pct. of average weekly wage covered: 39.2% (19th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 4.9% (20th highest)
> 1-yr. job growth: 4.7% (the largest increase)

Oregon’s economy improved rapidly in 2016. The state’s 4.7% annual job growth outpaced every other state and more than doubled the 1.7% nationwide growth rate. Partially as a result, the state’s annual unemployment rate fell from 5.6% in 2015 to 4.9% last year. Job growth has increased output in nearly every industry. Mining and logging was the only sector in the state to detract from GDP growth in 2016.

Oregon’s unemployed have other things going for them, as well. Oregon’s unemployed benefit from. For example, the average weekly unemployment insurance payout in Oregon covers 39.2% of the average weekly wage, a larger share than most states and well above the 34.1% national average.

Source: Thinkstock

6. Vermont
> Pct. unemployed receiving benefits: 44.0% (5th highest)
> Pct. of average weekly wage covered: 40.3% (13th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 3.3% (7th lowest)
> 1-yr. job growth: 0.2% (9th smallest increase)

Unemployed workers in Vermont are more likely to find a job before exhausting their jobless benefits than most Americans. Just 3.3% of the state’s labor force is out of work, far less than the 4.9% nationwide unemployment rate. While Vermont residents are allowed to receive unemployment insurance — UI — for a maximum of 26 weeks, the average jobless worker stays on UI programs for roughly half that time. Only 15% of unemployment recipients in Vermont max out their benefit programs, the second smallest share of any state and less than half the 37% national rate.

Vermont also has some of the most comprehensive unemployment coverage of any state. Roughly 44% of unemployed workers in Vermont receive benefits, the fifth largest share in the country.

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