Special Report

Worst States to Be Unemployed

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45. Minnesota
> Pre-COVID avg. weekly unemployment benefit payout: $478 (4th highest)
> Unemployment claims, mid-March through July 11: 852,021 (27.6% of labor force — 22nd highest)
> Employment change, June 2019 to June 2020: -9.4% (20th largest decline)
> June 2020 unemployment rate: 8.6% (23rd lowest)

Over the months leading up to the COVID-19 pandemic, 73.1% of unemployed Minnesota residents received unemployment benefits, one of the highest recipiency rates among states. Now the recipiency rate is likely even higher, as the state has waived the work search requirement for laid off workers in certain circumstances. Minnesota has also implemented a short-time compensation policy, meaning employers can reduce worker hours to avoid layoffs and affected workers are eligible for partial unemployment insurance benefits.

In the months before the pandemic, the average weekly unemployment insurance benefit payout was $478 in Minnesota, more than in all but three other states. Now, during the pandemic, unemployed workers in all states receive an additional $600 per week.

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44. Oklahoma
> Pre-COVID avg. weekly unemployment benefit payout: $396 (14th highest)
> Unemployment claims, mid-March through July 11: 810,981 (44.2% of labor force — 5th highest)
> Employment change, June 2019 to June 2020: -5.7% (14th smallest decline)
> June 2020 unemployment rate: 6.6% (6th lowest)

Oklahoma has made it far easier for residents who lost their jobs to receive benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic. The state has waived both its one-week waiting period for benefit payouts as well as work-search requirements for beneficiaries. Labor force participants in Oklahoma are also far less likely than most to find themselves unemployed during the pandemic. The state’s June jobless rate of 6.6% is lower than the vast majority of states and well below the 11.1% national rate.

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43. Wyoming
> Pre-COVID avg. weekly unemployment benefit payout: $419 (11th highest)
> Unemployment claims, mid-March through July 11: 52,825 (18.3% of labor force — 5th lowest)
> Employment change, June 2019 to June 2020: -7.6% (24th smallest decline)
> June 2020 unemployment rate: 7.6% (14th lowest)

Since mid-March, there have been about 53,000 initial unemployment claims in Wyoming, equal to 18.3% of the state’s total labor force, one of the smallest numbers of any state. As of June, the state’s official unemployment rate stands at 7.6%, well below the comparable 11.1% national rate.

In the months leading up to the pandemic, the average weekly unemployment payout in the state was $419, or about 49% of the average weekly wage in the state — the second highest replacement rate of any state.

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42. Kentucky
> Pre-COVID avg. weekly unemployment benefit payout: $341 (20th lowest)
> Unemployment claims, mid-March through July 11: 1.1 million (53.0% of labor force — 2nd highest)
> Employment change, June 2019 to June 2020: -9.2% (21st largest decline)
> June 2020 unemployment rate: 4.3% (the lowest)

As of June, Kentucky has the strongest job market of any state in the country. Just 4.3% of workers in the state are unemployed, the lowest jobless rate of any state and in line with the state’s unemployment rate one year ago. Though there have been 1.1 million initial unemployment claims in the state since mid-March, a large share of those claimants have either been hired back or found other work. Many workers have also likely dropped out of the labor force, as there are about 178,000 fewer jobs in the state in June than there were the same month last year.

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41. Kansas
> Pre-COVID avg. weekly unemployment benefit payout: $392 (16th highest)
> Unemployment claims, mid-March through July 11: 338,406 (22.9% of labor force — 16th lowest)
> Employment change, June 2019 to June 2020: -5.5% (12th smallest decline)
> June 2020 unemployment rate: 7.5% (11th lowest)

Before the pandemic, the average unemployment insurance benefit payout in Kansas of $392 was higher than in most states. Kansas has waived both the requirement that unemployment benefit recipients continue their job search and the one-week waiting period for benefits to begin during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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