Special Report

Best and Worst States to Be Unemployed

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5. Minnesota
> Pct. unemployed receiving benefits: 33.5% (11th highest)
> Avg. weekly UI payout: $453 (4th highest)
> 2018 unemployment rate: 2.9% (8th lowest)
> 1-yr. job growth: +0.9% (25th highest)

Only three states have a higher average weekly UI benefit payout than Minnesota. UI benefit recipients get an average of $453 a week while they look for work, well above the national average of $347. Minnesota’s strong job market — evidenced by a 2.9% annual unemployment rate — means the unemployed are less likely to remain jobless for long. Just 31.7% of UI recipients in Minnesota reach the end of their benefits before finding work, slightly lower than the 35.9% national UI exhaustion rate.

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4. Idaho
> Pct. unemployed receiving benefits: 19.9% (21st lowest)
> Avg. weekly UI payout: $307 (18th lowest)
> 2018 unemployment rate: 2.8% (7th lowest)
> 1-yr. job growth: +3.1% (4th highest)

The unemployment insurance recipiency rate is lower than average in Idaho, as is the average weekly payout. Workers in the state, however, are less likely to have to rely on them for an extended period of time as workers nationwide thanks to a booming job market. Over the last year, overall employment climbed by 3.1% in Idaho, more than in all but three other states. Additionally, Idaho’s 2.8% unemployment rate in 2018 is among the lowest in the country — well below the comparable 3.9% national rate.

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3. Iowa
> Pct. unemployed receiving benefits: 36.6% (8th highest)
> Avg. weekly UI payout: $383 (11th highest)
> 2018 unemployment rate: 2.5% (3rd lowest)
> 1-yr. job growth: +1.1% (22nd highest)

Iowa appears to have one of the least restrictive unemployment insurance programs of any state. An estimated 36.6% of all unemployed residents are receiving UI benefits, well above the 26.3% national recipiency rate. Weekly payouts also go further than average, covering 42% of the average working wage compared to nationwide average weekly UI payout covers of only 32% of the average weekly wage.

Workers in Iowa also benefit from a strong job market. Just 2.5% of the state’s labor force are unemployed, nearly the lowest unemployment rate among states.

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2. Hawaii
> Pct. unemployed receiving benefits: 41.8% (4th highest)
> Avg. weekly UI payout: $503 (2nd highest)
> 2018 unemployment rate: 2.4% (the lowest)
> 1-yr. job growth: -0.7% (3rd lowest)

By several measures, Hawaii has one of the most generous unemployment insurance programs in the country. The average weekly UI payout in the state of $503 is well above the $347 national average. That amount covers 53% of the average weekly working wage in Hawaii, the largest share of any state.

Hawaii also has one of the best economies of any state. Just 2.4% of workers in Hawaii were out of a job in 2018, the lowest annual unemployment rate of any state.

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1. Massachusetts
> Pct. unemployed receiving benefits: 48.0% (2nd highest)
> Avg. weekly UI payout: $515 (the highest)
> 2018 unemployment rate: 3.3% (15th lowest)
> 1-yr. job growth: +3.4% (3rd highest)

Massachusetts spends more on unemployment benefits on a per person basis than every other state. Of all unemployed persons in the state, 48.0% receive UI benefits, nearly double the 26.3% recipiency rate across all states. Additionally, those with UI benefits are paid an average of $515 per week, the highest average weekly payment in the country. The state’s strong social safety net does not stop with unemployment benefits. Massachusetts also spends more on health care than all but a handful of states.

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