Special Report

Best and Worst States to Be Unemployed

Worst States to be Unemployed

Source: Sean Pavone / Getty Images

10. Georgia
> Pct. unemployed receiving benefits: 12.6% (5th lowest)
> Avg. weekly UI payout: $290 (14th lowest)
> 2018 unemployment rate: 3.9% (21st highest)
> 1-yr. job growth: +1.7% (11th highest)

Only about 12.6% of unemployed workers in Georgia receive unemployment insurance benefits, less than half the national UI recipiency rate of 26.3%. For those receiving UI benefits, weekly payments are relatively low, at just $290 on average. Nationwide, the typical weekly UI payment is $347. However, unlike many of the other states that rank among the worst places to be unemployed, Georgia has a relatively healthy job market. Employment climbed by 1.7% in the state last year and just 3.9% of workers were unemployed in 2018, both of which are roughly in line with the respective U.S. rates.

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9. Michigan
> Pct. unemployed receiving benefits: 20.0% (22nd lowest)
> Avg. weekly UI payout: $305 (17th lowest)
> 2018 unemployment rate: 4.1% (15th highest)
> 1-yr. job growth: +0.8% (22nd lowest)

Only one in every five out-of-job workers in Michigan receive UI benefits, compared to more than one in four unemployed Americans. Joblessness is also a larger problem in Michigan than it is in most states, as 4.1% of the labor force were out of work in 2018 compared to 3.9% of American workers. Unemployment is far worse in certain pockets of the state, and largely because of weak economic conditions, half a dozen Michigan cities, including Detroit and Flint, rank among the 50 worst cities to live in.

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8. Ohio
> Pct. unemployed receiving benefits: 17.4% (15th lowest)
> Avg. weekly UI payout: $361 (17th highest)
> 2018 unemployment rate: 4.6% (7th highest)
> 1-yr. job growth: +0.2% (9th lowest)

Only 17.4% of unemployed workers in Ohio receive UI benefits, a smaller share than in most states. Nationwide, 26.3% of unemployed workers receive UI benefits. The lower than average coverage in Ohio comes with greater than average need. In 2018, an average of 4.6% of workers were unemployed in the Buckeye State, a higher unemployment rate than in all but half a dozen states.

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7. North Carolina
> Pct. unemployed receiving benefits: 10.1% (2nd lowest)
> Avg. weekly UI payout: $256 (10th lowest)
> 2018 unemployment rate: 3.9% (21st highest)
> 1-yr. job growth: +1.5% (15th highest)

Though North Carolina’s 3.9% unemployment rate in 2018 is the same as the comparable national rate, joblessness is much more likely to be a financial strain in the state than on average nationwide. Only about one in every 10 workers in the state who are out of a job receive UI benefits, compared to more than one in every four nationwide. Additionally, the average weekly UI benefit payout of $256 in North Carolina covers only about 27% of the average weekly working wage in the state. Meanwhile, the average national weekly UI payout of $347 covers 32% of the average worker’s weekly earnings.

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6. Tennessee
> Pct. unemployed receiving benefits: 13.9% (6th lowest)
> Avg. weekly UI payout: $144 (the lowest)
> 2018 unemployment rate: 3.5% (21st lowest)
> 1-yr. job growth: +2.0% (9th highest)

Tennessee pays unemployment insurance recipients an average of just $144 a week, the least of any state and less than half the average payment of $347 across all states. That payment covers just 15.2% of the average weekly working wage in the state, also the smallest share in the country and less than half the comparable 32.1% nationwide share.

Fortunately, Tennessee’s relatively strong job market reduces the number of people who need to depend on unemployment benefits. Just 3.5% of the state’s labor force are out of work, below the 3.9% national unemployment rate.

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