Special Report

Worst States to Be Unemployed

Source: Sean Pavone / Getty Images

30. Wisconsin
> Pre-COVID avg. weekly unemployment benefit payout: $324 (16th lowest)
> Unemployment claims, mid-March through July 11: 768,779 (24.8% of labor force — 24th lowest)
> Employment change, June 2019 to June 2020: -9.8% (17th largest decline)
> June 2020 unemployment rate: 8.5% (21st lowest)

Leading up to the current economic crisis, the average unemployment insurance payout in Wisconsin was $324 per week, less than in most states and enough to cover only about 38% of the average weekly working wage — one of the lower replacement rates among states.

Unlike nearly every other state, newly unemployed Wisconsin residents are still subject to a one-week waiting period before they begin receiving benefits.

Source: SeanPavonePhoto / Getty Images

29. Pennsylvania
> Pre-COVID avg. weekly unemployment benefit payout: $408 (12th highest)
> Unemployment claims, mid-March through July 11: 2.3 million (35.2% of labor force — 9th highest)
> Employment change, June 2019 to June 2020: -10.2% (14th largest decline)
> June 2020 unemployment rate: 13.0% (9th highest)

By measures of total employment, Pennsylvania’s economy has been hit harder by the COVID-19 pandemic than the economy of most other states. Between June of 2019 and June of 2020, about one in every 10 jobs in the state has disappeared. Pennsylvania’s June unemployment rate stands at 13.0%, compared to the 11.1% U.S. jobless rate.

Pennsylvania’s jobless rate would likely be higher had it it not implemented a short-time compensation policy. This policy allows employers to reduce worker hours to avoid layoffs while allowing affected workers to claim partial unemployment insurance benefits.

Source: Gary Gray / Getty Images

28. Colorado
> Pre-COVID avg. weekly unemployment benefit payout: $458 (7th highest)
> Unemployment claims, mid-March through July 11: 502,463 (16.1% of labor force — 3rd lowest)
> Employment change, June 2019 to June 2020: -6.6% (18th smallest decline)
> June 2020 unemployment rate: 10.5% (17th highest)

In the months preceding the COVID-19 pandemic, just over 40% of unemployment insurance beneficiaries in Colorado had exhausted their benefits before finding employment again — one of the higher exhaustion rates in the country. Since the start of the pandemic, Colorado has extended the maximum length of its benefits period to 39 weeks to account for mass disruptions in its job market. As of mid-March, there have been over half a million initial jobless claims filed in the state.

Source: Sean Pavone / Getty Images

27. Maryland
> Pre-COVID avg. weekly unemployment benefit payout: $358 (25th highest)
> Unemployment claims, mid-March through July 11: 777,534 (24.1% of labor force — 22nd lowest)
> Employment change, June 2019 to June 2020: -9.5% (19th largest decline)
> June 2020 unemployment rate: 8.0% (18th lowest)

Before the pandemic sent shockwaves through the U.S. economy, only about 29% of unemployed Maryland residents received unemployment insurance benefits, a lower recipiency rate than in most states. That rate has likely increased in recent months however, as Maryland has taken several measures to make it easier for out-of-work state residents to receive benefits, including waiving the requirement that recipients be actively searching for work.

Maryland’s job market has been devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Between June of 2019 and June of 2020, about one in every 10 jobs in the state have disappeared.

Source: Sean Pavone / iStock via Getty Images

26. Georgia
> Pre-COVID avg. weekly unemployment benefit payout: $306 (14th lowest)
> Unemployment claims, mid-March through July 11: 3.1 million (61.6% of labor force — the highest)
> Employment change, June 2019 to June 2020: -5.2% (9th smallest decline)
> June 2020 unemployment rate: 7.6% (14th lowest)

In Georgia, the average weekly unemployment insurance payout was just $306 before the pandemic, less than in most states and enough to cover only about one-third of the average weekly working wage in the state. Since the pandemic however, qualified residents who are out of work are benefiting from an additional $600 in federal benefits per week, at least until the end of July.

Though there have been over three million initial unemployment filings in Georgia since mid-March — equal to a staggering 61.6% of the state’s total labor force — many of those who filed for unemployment have likely since found work again. As of June, Georgia’s official unemployment rate stands at 7.6%, considerably lower than the 11.1% national unemployment rate.

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