Special Report

Best (and Worst) States to Be Unemployed

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5. Colorado
> Pct. unemployed receiving benefits: 31.0% (18th highest)
> Pct. of average weekly wage covered: 40.0% (14th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 3.3% (7th lowest)
> 1-yr. job growth: 2.7% (9th largest increase)

Colorado is yet another western state to rank as one of the most favorable places for the unemployed. First, those who don’t have a job in the state are more likely to rejoin the ranks of the employed quickly. The unemployment rate, at 3.3%, is one of the lowest in the country, and the number of jobs increased by 2.7% in 2016, one of the largest such increases nationwide. For those Coloradans who do not quickly regain a job, benefits average over $1,000 per week, the 10th-highest of any state.

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4. Utah
> Pct. unemployed receiving benefits: 21.0% (17th lowest)
> Pct. of average weekly wage covered: 45.5% (4th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 3.4% (8th lowest)
> 1-yr. job growth: 3.3% (3rd largest increase)

Utah’s job market is healthier than that of nearly any state. Last year, state employment rose by 3.3%, the third most in the country and nearly double the job growth nationwide. The state’s 2016 unemployment rate of 3.4% is among the lowest of any state, and as of April 2017, it had fallen to just 3.1%. The state’s unemployment insurance recipiency rate of 21% is below that of most states. However, those who do receive UI benefits in the state tend to be generously covered. The average weekly UI benefits of $385 comes to 45.5% of weekly wages in Utah, the fourth highest in the country.

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3. Massachusetts
> Pct. unemployed receiving benefits: 54.0% (2nd highest)
> Pct. of average weekly wage covered: 38.0% (24th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 3.7% (10th lowest)
> 1-yr. job growth: 1.5% (23rd largest increase)

The average unemployment insurance recipient in Massachusetts pockets about $488 a week in benefits, the second highest payout of any state after North Dakota. In addition to a higher unemployment income, Massachusetts residents are less likely to exhaust their benefits before they find a job. Only 34.2% of those receiving unemployment benefits exhaust them before returning to work, slightly less than the 36.9% share who do nationwide.

Workers in Massachusetts are also less likely to ever need unemployment benefits in the first place. Driven largely by jobs in the education and health services sector, as well as professional and business services jobs, Massachusetts’ economy is relatively strong. The state has an unemployment rate of only 3.7% — one of the lower figures in the country.

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2. Hawaii
> Pct. unemployed receiving benefits: 36.0% (13th highest)
> Pct. of average weekly wage covered: 51.7% (2nd highest)
> Unemployment rate: 3.0% (3rd lowest)
> 1-yr. job growth: 2.1% (13th largest increase)

The average unemployment benefits payment covers 52% of the average Hawaiian paycheck, the largest share of any state other than North Dakota. While Hawaiians are allowed a maximum of 26 weeks of unemployment insurance, the average UI payment recipient in the state spends just 14 weeks on the program. Only 26% of UI beneficiaries in the state max out their benefits, far less than the 37% national exhaustion rate.

Like the U.S. as a whole, Hawaii’s job market has improved over the past year. As the number of jobs in the state rose 2.1% between 2015 and 2016, the unemployment rate fell from 3.6% to 3.0% in 2016 — the third lowest annual unemployment rate nationwide.

1. North Dakota
> Pct. unemployed receiving benefits: 63.0% (the highest)
> Pct. of average weekly wage covered: 54.6% (the highest)
> Unemployment rate: 3.2% (5th lowest)
> 1-yr. job growth: 0.1% (8th smallest increase)

While losing one’s job is by no means a desirable turn of events, you are best off having it happen in North Dakota. A staggering 63% of North Dakota’s receive benefits, the most of any state and more than double the national rate. This rate is also almost 10 percentage points above the state with the second highest recipiency rate, Massachussetts.

North Dakota’s UI benefits are also perhaps the most generous in the country. The average unemployed American receives $344 in weekly benefits, amounting to 34% of lost weekly wages. North Dakotans, meanwhile, receive an average of $515 weekly, amounting to 63% of average lost wages in the state, each the highest such figure of any state.