Special Report

Best and Worst States to Be Unemployed

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5. Wyoming
> Pct. unemployed receiving benefits: 16.2% (12th lowest)
> Avg. weekly UI payout: $370 (13th highest)
> 2018 unemployment rate: 4.1% (15th highest)
> 1-yr. job growth: -1.0% (2nd lowest)

The average weekly unemployment insurance payout in Wyoming of $370 covers about 41% of the average weekly working wage, more than in the majority of states. However, a relatively small share of unemployed state residents are able to take advantage of the relatively large payout. Only 16.2% of unemployed Wyoming residents receive UI benefits compared to 26.3% of unemployed Americans. On top of that, finding a job in Wyoming may be more difficult than in many other states. The state’s unemployment rate is 4.1%, slightly higher than the 3.9% national unemployment rate.

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4. West Virginia
> Pct. unemployed receiving benefits: 22.4% (25th highest)
> Avg. weekly UI payout: $287 (13th lowest)
> 2018 unemployment rate: 5.3% (2nd highest)
> 1-yr. job growth: +0.4% (15th lowest)

The average weekly unemployment insurance payout in West Virginia is $287, less than most states and well below the $347 national average. Joblessness is a widespread problem in West Virginia. The state’s annual unemployment rate of 5.3% is the second highest among states. Many employers may be driven away from the state as a broad range of economic conditions make West Virginia one of the worst states for business.

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3. Mississippi
> Pct. unemployed receiving benefits: 14.4% (7th lowest)
> Avg. weekly UI payout: $206 (2nd lowest)
> 2018 unemployment rate: 4.8% (5th highest)
> 1-yr. job growth: +0.0% (6th lowest)

Only 14.4% of unemployed Mississippi residents receive unemployment insurance benefits, a far smaller share than the 26.3% of unemployed Americans. Not only does the state’s unemployment insurance program appear to be more restrictive, but it is also less generous. The average weekly UI payout in MIssissippi is just $206, less than in every state other than Tennessee. Mississippi also has one of the highest annual unemployment rates in the country, at 4.8%, and the state is adding jobs at a slower pace than most states, with no net gain in overall employment in the last year.

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2. Louisiana
> Pct. unemployed receiving benefits: 12.3% (4th lowest)
> Avg. weekly UI payout: $210 (3rd lowest)
> 2018 unemployment rate: 4.9% (3rd highest)
> 1-yr. job growth: +0.2% (10th lowest)

Mississippi and Tennessee are the only states with a lower average weekly UI benefit payout than Louisiana. The typical UI benefit recipient in the state is paid just $210 a week, well below the $347 national average, and enough to cover only 23.1% of the average weekly working wage in the state.

Louisiana’s job market is also not particularly strong. Over the last year, the number of people working increased by just 0.2% in the state. Partially due to slower than average job growth and the state’s 4.9% unemployment rate, Louisiana has the worst economy of any state.

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1. Alaska
> Pct. unemployed receiving benefits: 27.6% (15th highest)
> Avg. weekly UI payout: $261 (12th lowest)
> 2018 unemployment rate: 6.6% (the highest)
> 1-yr. job growth: -0.7% (4th lowest)

The average weekly UI benefit payout in Alaska of $261 is far lower than average and covers only about 25% of the average weekly working wage in the state. Nationwide, UI benefits cover 32.1% of average weekly wages. Alaska ranks as the worst state to be unemployed largely because it also ranks as the state where it is hardest to find full time work. Alaska reported negative employment growth in the last year, and the state’s 6.6% unemployment rate in 2018 is the highest among states. Due in part to the state’s weak job market, 44.4% of UI recipients exhaust their benefits before finding full-time work, nearly the largest share of any state and well above the 35.9% national exhaustion rate.

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