Best (and Worst) States to Be Unemployed

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5. New Mexico
> Pct. unemployed receiving benefits: 20.0% (16th lowest)
> Pct. of average weekly wage covered: 42.6% (9th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 6.7% (the highest)
> 1-yr. job growth: 0.2% (10th smallest increase)

Those who receive unemployment insurance benefits in New Mexico receive an average of $338 weekly. This is the equivalent of 42.6% of lost average weekly wages in the state, one of the higher replacement rates in the country. However, only a small share of New Mexicans receive UI benefits — just 20% of the unemployed — compared to a national recipiency rate of 28%.

Further, New Mexicans receiving benefits are more likely than those in most states to run out. About 40% of the state’s jobless exhaust their 26 weeks of benefits before finding another job. The high exhaustion rate is likely in part due to the relatively small number of job opportunities in the state, New Mexico’s unemployment rate of 6.7% is the highest in the country.

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4. Alaska
> Pct. unemployed receiving benefits: 48.0% (3rd highest)
> Pct. of average weekly wage covered: 27.3% (9th lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 6.6% (2nd highest)
> 1-yr. job growth: -0.8% (2nd largest decline)

Some 6.6% of Alaska’s workforce are out of a job, the second highest annual employment rate in the country. That figure is up from 6.4% in 2015 — making the state one of only nine where the unemployment rate worsened.

Climbing unemployment coincided with a decrease in job opportunities in Alaska. The number of jobs in the state fell by 0.8% from 2015 to 2016, one of the steepest declines in the country. Alaska’s lagging job market means the state’s unemployed have fewer employment opportunities. Some 45% of unemployment insurance recipients exhaust their benefits before finding a job, one of the largest such shares of any state and well above the 37% rate nationwide.

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3. Mississippi
> Pct. unemployed receiving benefits: 15.0% (7th lowest)
> Pct. of average weekly wage covered: 28.7% (11th lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 5.8% (7th highest)
> 1-yr. job growth: 1.4% (24th largest increase)

Mississippi has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country, at 5.8%. About 75,000 of the state’s labor force of 1.3 million are unemployed. Given the large number of state workers who file for benefits, as well as the fact that Mississippi’s government does not have the same resources as some of the more affluent states, it is not surprising that the state’s unemployment insurance benefits program is relatively sparse.

Just 15% of the state’s jobless receive UI benefits, about half the national rate. The average weekly benefit amount for that small group is just $206, the smallest of any state. Even given Mississippi’s relatively low cost of living and wages, this comes to just 28.7% of lost weekly wages, compared to the national replacement rate of 34.1%.

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2. Alabama
> Pct. unemployed receiving benefits: 16.0% (10th lowest)
> Pct. of average weekly wage covered: 26.4% (6th lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 6.0% (4th highest)
> 1-yr. job growth: 0.9% (21st smallest increase)

Alabama has one of the highest unemployment rates of any state, and also has among the worst unemployment insurance coverage of nearly any state. Just 16% of those who are unemployed receive benefits, a small share compared to the 28% national figure. For the minority of jobless workers who do receive UI benefits in Alabama, unemployment insurance is a poor substitute for lost wages. The average payment amounts to just 26.4% of wages, the sixth smallest share of any state and far less than the 34.1% national figure.

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1. Louisiana
> Pct. unemployed receiving benefits: 12.0% (4th lowest)
> Pct. of average weekly wage covered: 25.2% (4th lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 6.1% (3rd highest)
> 1-yr. job growth: -1.6% (4th largest decline)

Unemployment insurance benefits in Louisiana are likely inadequate for many recipients. The average weekly payout only covers about 25% of the average weekly wage of working Louisiana residents, compared to a national average of 34.1%.

A flagging economy does not help the job prospects for the state’s unemployed residents. The number of jobs in Louisiana fell by 1.6% between 2015 and 2016, the second steepest drop of any state. The state’s annual unemployment rate stands at 6.1%, the third highest in the country and well above the 4.3% national unemployment rate. Several industries in Louisiana detracted from GDP growth in 2016, including finance, mining, and government, the largest sector by employment in the state.