Best and Worst States to Be Unemployed

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Best States to be Unemployed

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10. New Jersey
> Pct. unemployed receiving benefits: 52.3% (the highest)
> Avg. weekly UI payout: $433 (6th highest)
> 2018 unemployment rate: 4.1% (15th highest)
> 1-yr. job growth: -0.2% (5th lowest)

New Jersey is the only state in the country where over half of all unemployed residents receive unemployment insurance benefits. The typical UI recipient in the Garden State is paid $433 a week, slightly more than the average payout across all states of $347.

The stronger than average social safety net may be necessary due to the weaker than average job market. Overall employment in New Jersey dropped by 0.2% in the last year — making it one of just a handful of states losing jobs. The state’s 2018 unemployment rate of 4.1% is slightly above the comparable 3.9% national rate.

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9. Utah
> Pct. unemployed receiving benefits: 14.9% (9th lowest)
> Avg. weekly UI payout: $413 (8th highest)
> 2018 unemployment rate: 3.1% (12th lowest)
> 1-yr. job growth: +1.7% (12th highest)

The average unemployment insurance recipient in the United States is paid the equivalent of less than a third of the average weekly earnings in UI benefits. In Utah, the average recipient is paid 45.2% of the average weekly wage, the second highest share of any state.

Though Utah’s UI benefit recipiency rate of 14.9% is among the lowest of any state, strong economic conditions make it less likely that workers in the state will face unemployment for a significant duration. Utah ranks among the best states for business, and in the last year, Utah’s 1.7% job growth over the last year was higher than most other states. Similarly, its annual unemployment rate of 3.1% was well below the 3.9% national rate.

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8. Nevada
> Pct. unemployed receiving benefits: 26.1% (17th highest)
> Avg. weekly UI payout: $348 (19th highest)
> 2018 unemployment rate: 4.6% (7th highest)
> 1-yr. job growth: +3.4% (2nd highest)

The average weekly unemployment insurance payout in Nevada is $348, almost exactly in line with the national average. Working wages, however, tend to be slightly lower than average in Nevada, and as a result, unemployment insurance covers a larger than typical share of weekly wages in the state.

In the last year, the number of people working in Nevada climbed by 3.4%, the second highest employment growth of any state. Nevada’s near nation-leading job growth is driven in part by its entertainment and hospitality industry, which is centered around gaming in Las Vegas. On a per capita spending basis, Nevada spends more on gambling than any other state.

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7. Vermont
> Pct. unemployed receiving benefits: 34.4% (10th highest)
> Avg. weekly UI payout: $347 (20th highest)
> 2018 unemployment rate: 2.7% (5th lowest)
> 1-yr. job growth: +0.3% (12th lowest)

Workers in Vermont are less likely to find themselves out of a job than those in nearly every other state. Just 2.7% of the state’s labor force was unemployed in 2018, well below the 3.9% national unemployment rate. A strong job market means that even those who are unemployed are less likely to remain so for long, and in Vermont, just 13.8% of unemployment benefit recipients exhaust their benefits before finding a job, the smallest share of any state. For reference, 35.9% of UI benefit recipients nationwide exhaust their benefits before finding work again.

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6. Colorado
> Pct. unemployed receiving benefits: 18.5% (19th lowest)
> Avg. weekly UI payout: $432 (7th highest)
> 2018 unemployment rate: 3.3% (15th lowest)
> 1-yr. job growth: +2.9% (5th highest)

Unemployment benefit recipients in Colorado are paid an average of $432 a week, or about 39% of the average working wage in the state. Nationwide, the average weekly UI payout is $347, which is just 32% of the average weekly working wage.

Unemployment is also less common in Colorado than it is nationwide. Just 3.3% of the labor force was out of a job in 2018 compared to the 3.9% national unemployment rate. Due in no small part to a strong job market, Colorado ranks among the best states to live in.