How Generous Are Unemployment Benefits in Your State?

Andrey_Popov / Shutterstock.com

Losing one’s job is stressful on many levels, but the state you live in can influence that stress.

Unemployment payments vary greatly from state to state, with the most generous state paying out more than three times the maximum weekly benefits of the stingiest state.

States also differ as to the maximum number of weeks an unemployed person may receive payments — again, by a wide margin. Massachusetts offers up to 30 weeks of payments, the most of any state. But lose your job in North Carolina or Florida, and you’d better have a new one after 12 weeks, the maximum time allowed for unemployment benefits.

Cost information website Howmuch.net created a visualization showing how unemployment benefits differ from state to state. It uses data from state departments of labor and the U.S. Department of Labor’s database.

We broke out the rankings by state, beginning with the least generous state and ending with the state offering the highest maximum weekly unemployment benefit.

50. Mississippi

Oxford, Mississippi
James Kirkikis / Shutterstock.com

Maximum weekly unemployment insurance benefit: $235

It’s not easy to live on unemployment benefits alone in Mississippi. The state has the lowest maximum weekly benefit in the nation.

The Magnolia State has a relatively high unemployment rate. According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data for July, Mississippi was one of only eight states with an unemployment rate (5.1%) significantly higher than the national average (3.7%). Alaska (6.3%) was the only state with a rate higher than Mississippi’s.

Need a silver lining? While Mississippi has the lowest maximum benefit of any state, it also has the lowest cost of living, according to state rankings by the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center.

49. Arizona

DBSOCAL / Shutterstock.com

Maximum weekly unemployment insurance benefit: $240

Arizona’s maximum weekly benefit is barely above that of the lowest, Mississippi’s. And it’s not a good time for the state to be offering so little to the unemployed.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Arizona’s unemployment rate (4.9%) was significantly higher than the national rate as of July.

48. Louisiana

Streetcar in New Orleans
TFoxFoto / Shutterstock.com

Maximum weekly unemployment insurance benefit: $247

Like Mississippi and Arizona, Louisiana has one of the lowest maximum weekly benefits, while at the same time having an unemployment rate (4.3%) that is significantly higher than the national average, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Perhaps a little good news: The number of unemployed people in Louisiana decreased by 11,081 from July 2018 to this July, according to BLS statistics cited by the Beauregard Daily News.

47. Alabama

Leslie Stewart Gafford / Shutterstock.com

Maximum weekly unemployment insurance benefit: $265

Alabama’s weekly benefits are undeniably low, but more people there are finding work.

According to the Alabama Political Reporter, the state’s job growth from July 2018 to this July was better than the national average. Citing the state’s labor department, the publication said the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is just 3.3%, a new record low for Alabama and lower than the U.S. rate of 3.7%.

46. Tennessee (tie)

eakkarat rangram / Shutterstock.com

Maximum weekly unemployment insurance benefit: $275

Tennessee and Florida are tied for the fifth-lowest maximum weekly unemployment benefit, and there’s some dismal news to go with that. According to a report from the Chattanooga Times Free Press, unemployment edged higher in Tennessee for a third consecutive month in July.

The report, which cites figures from the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development, does note that Tennessee saw above-average job growth over the past year and that the state’s jobless rate (3.5%) remained under the national average in July.

46. Florida (tie)

Florida Keys
GagliardiImages / Shutterstock.com

Maximum weekly unemployment insurance benefit: $275

Florida is tied with Tennessee for the fifth-lowest maximum weekly unemployment benefit.

But the Sunshine State’s rules make unemployment even tougher. Floridians can receive a maximum of only 12 weeks of unemployment benefits, which ties the state with North Carolina for the shortest time period allowed.

44. Missouri

Lane V. Erickson / Shutterstock.com

Maximum weekly unemployment insurance benefit: $320

Missouri’s weekly unemployment benefits are relatively low, but a new state program seeks to help residents find work.

According to KRCG-TV, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson recently approved a new $10 million scholarship program to help adults retrain for high-demand jobs. For workers age 25 and older, the program may cover tuition and fees for degrees and vocational certificates for targeted jobs.

43. South Carolina

Terrie L. Zeller / Shutterstock.com

Maximum weekly unemployment insurance benefit: $326

Not only are unemployment benefits low in South Carolina, but housing in the Palmetto State also can be hard to come by.

About a third of state households struggle to afford housing, according to a recent report on a state study in the Charleston-based Post and Courier newspaper.

42. Delaware (tie)

Paul Brady Photography / Shutterstock.com

Maximum weekly unemployment insurance benefit: $330

Delaware’s not generous with its unemployment benefits, but its unemployment rate is low for the region.

The state’s unemployment rate in June was 3.2%, lower than nearby New Jersey’s 3.5% and Pennsylvania’s 3.8%, says Delaware Business Now. Delaware’s rate rose to 3.3% in July.

42. Georgia (tie)

Savannah Georgia riverboat.
Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com

Maximum weekly unemployment insurance benefit: $330

While Georgia isn’t exactly generous to the unemployed, there’s some good news. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the state’s economy is growing.

Georgia added 32,900 jobs in the first seven months of 2019, dropping its unemployment rate to 3.6% from the 3.8% recorded in July 2018.

40. North Carolina

nature
Jill Lang / Shutterstock.com

Maximum weekly unemployment insurance benefit: $350

North Carolinians face a double whammy when they’re out of work: Their state offers a low maximum benefit to the unemployed, and jobless workers can get that money for only 12 weeks before they’re expected to be employed again, according to HowMuch.net.

North Carolina joins Florida in offering unemployment insurance benefits for the briefest time of all U.S. states.

39. Michigan

Michigan lighthouse
Kenneth Keifer / Shutterstock.com

Maximum weekly unemployment insurance benefit: $362

Michigan’s unemployment benefits are fairly low. And the state’s unemployment rate has been rising for five straight months, according to WLUC-TV.

The state’s jobless rate in July was 4.3%, the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget reports. That’s a hair above its July 2018 rate of 4%.

Although unemployment grew over the past year, the report notes that the state’s labor force expanded, too.

38. Alaska (tie)

Alaska springtime landscape
Mike Redwine / Shutterstock.com

Maximum weekly unemployment insurance benefit: $370

Beautiful Alaska has low unemployment benefits, and it has many workers in need of that financial assistance.

As of July, the Last Frontier had the worst unemployment rate of any state, at 6.3%, and a good bit worse than the national average, 3.7%.

More bad news for Alaskans: The state came in dead last in a recent analysis that scores and ranks the states on key indicators of economic activity, economic health and innovation potential.

38. Wisconsin (tie)

Wisconsin
By-Rachel-Niskanen / Shutterstock.com

Maximum weekly unemployment insurance benefit: $370

The Badger State is one of only a handful of states with an unemployment rate significantly lower than the national average of 3.7%, says the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Wisconsin’s jobless rate rose slightly in July, but not much, to 3% from 2.9% the month before, BizTimes Milwaukee reports.

36. Virginia

Richmond, Virginia
Sean Pavone / Shutterstock.com

Maximum weekly unemployment insurance benefit: $378

Like Wisconsin, Virginia’s unemployment rate is significantly lower than the national average.

Virginia’s jobless rate, 2.9%, was unchanged in July from the year before.

35. Indiana

Indianapolis
Semmick Photo / Shutterstock.com

Maximum weekly unemployment insurance benefit: $390

Mixed news for Indiana job-seekers. The state’s unemployment rate ticked down slightly in July, from 3.5% to 3.4%, which is the lowest it’s been in more than a year, according to WFYI.

But the state lost 1,300 private-sector jobs, mostly in the areas of leisure and hospitality and trade, transportation and utilities. Another unwelcome trend: The state’s labor force shrank for the third consecutive month.

34. South Dakota

Peek Creative Collective / Shutterstock.com

Maximum weekly unemployment insurance benefit: $402

Here’s good job news for South Dakota: The state’s unemployment rate is lower than the national average.

South Dakota’s unemployment rate is 2.9%, compared with the U.S. rate of 3.7%.

33. Idaho

CSNafzger / Shutterstock.com

Maximum weekly unemployment insurance benefit: $414

Idaho is another state where unemployment is significantly better than the national average.

Idaho’s unemployment rate is 2.9%, compared with the U.S. average, 3.7%.

32. West Virginia

New River Gorge Bridge
Kenneth Keifer / Shutterstock.com

Maximum weekly unemployment insurance benefit: $424

The employment situation in West Virginia isn’t among the nation’s best.

With a jobless rate of 4.7%, the state is one of eight whose unemployment rates are significantly worse than the national average of 3.7%.

31. Nebraska

Nebraska farm.
McElroy Art / Shutterstock.com

Maximum weekly unemployment insurance benefit: $426

Nebraska’s unemployment rate crept up just a bit this July.

According to KMTV Omaha, unemployment in the Cornhusker State rose from June’s 3% to 3.1% in July. However, that rate remains well below the national rate of 3.7%.

30. New Hampshire

Kenneth Keifer / Shutterstock.com

Maximum weekly unemployment insurance benefit: $427

Nice work, New Hampshire. The Granite State’s unemployment rate in July was significantly lower than the national rate.

New Hampshire’s unemployment rate is at 2.5%, compared with the national rate, 3.7%.

29. Maryland

James Kirkikis / Shutterstock.com

Maximum weekly unemployment insurance benefit: $430

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Maryland’s unemployment rate has remained steady since May, according to the BLS report. That jobless rate for July, 3.8%, is down from 3.9% in July 2018.

This is a good time to be seeking work in education and health care in Maryland: Those economic sectors saw the most growth, with 4,300 jobs added from the month before.

28. New Mexico

Tim Pleasant / Shutterstock.com

Maximum weekly unemployment insurance benefit: $433

New Mexico’s unemployment rate stayed steady from June to July, according to Albuquerque’s KOB-TV.

But that’s not necessarily a good thing. The Land of Enchantment’s unemployment rate is 4.9%, according to the BLS, which is notably higher than the national rate of 3.7%.

27. Maine

Portland Maine lighthouse
E.J.Johnson Photography / Shutterstock.com

Maximum weekly unemployment insurance benefit: $445

In good economic news for Mainers, unemployment rates in the state’s three metropolitan areas keep dropping, according to the Bangor Daily News.

In fact, the Portland-South Portland metro area boasts the second-lowest jobless rate in the U.S., at 1.9% in July.

Only Vermont’s Burlington-South Burlington metro area had a lower rate, with 1.8% unemployment.

26. California (tie)

Carlsbad, California
Kyle Sprague / Shutterstock.com

Maximum weekly unemployment insurance benefit: $450

California, which has the world’s fifth-largest economy, just tied the record job growth seen during its economic expansion of the 1960s.

The state has recorded 113 months of job growth, the Associated Press reports, citing numbers from the state Employment Development Department that show, over the past nine years, an average of 29,200 new jobs each month.

Nevertheless, California’s unemployment rate remained higher in July, at 4.1%, than the national average of 3.7% — despite that 4.1% tying a record low for the state first seen in 2018.

Some of the fastest-growing jobs in the state are those serving the desires, appetites and whims of wealthy clients. Economists call this “wealth work,” the AP reports.

26. New York (tie)

kreidzeleu / Shutterstock.com

Maximum weekly unemployment insurance benefit: $450

Meh. New York state saw negligible private-sector job growth in July, adding only 1,200 jobs statewide, according to Department of Labor data, reported at Dansville Online.

Despite that tepid growth, the state’s seasonally-adjusted unemployment figure remained at 4% in July, for a third consecutive month. In New York City, the unemployment rate of 4.3% also had not changed.

26. Nevada (tie)

Las vegas in daylight
nito / Shutterstock.com

Maximum weekly unemployment insurance benefit: $450

What a difference a year makes.

July claims for unemployment benefits in Nevada were up by more than 400 claims from June. Still, that’s down substantially compared with July 2018, says CarsonNow.org, quoting Nevada’s Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation.

Year-over-year unemployment rate data from the BLS also shows a decline for Nevada, from a rate of 4.5% in July 2018 to 4.1% this July.

23. Arkansas

Man fishing in Arkansas lake
Bonita R. Cheshier / Shutterstock.com

Maximum weekly unemployment insurance benefit: $451

Sometimes, it doesn’t take much to create a new record. Arkansas’ unemployment rate fell by just one-tenth of a percent in July, and that was all it took.

According to Arkansas Business, the state’s jobless rate of 3.4% is a record low, beating the 3.5% unemployment rate of the previous month.

22. Iowa

By Dan Thornberg / Shutterstock.com

Maximum weekly unemployment insurance benefit: $455

Iowa’s unemployment rate rose slightly recently, from 2.4% in June to 2.5% in July, KCRG-TV reports.

The Hawkeye State’s unemployment rate remains among the nation’s lowest, well below the national average of 3.7%.

21. Illinois

Sorbis / Shutterstock.com

Maximum weekly unemployment insurance benefit: $471

The economy is pretty stable in Illinois.

A recent state report says joblessness improved slightly in July 2019 over the previous year, dropping 0.3% to an unemployment rate of 4.2%, according to the Decatur Herald & Review.

20. Kansas

Gary L. Brewer / Shutterstock.com

Maximum weekly unemployment insurance benefit: $474

Lose your job in Kansas, and you’d better start the job hunt right away.

Kansas offers only 16 weeks of unemployment benefits.

Only Florida and North Carolina, which allow only 12 weeks, give job-seekers less time to find work, according to HowMuch.net.

19. Wyoming

Snowmobilers pass a bison in Wyoming
Carolina K. Smith MD / Shutterstock.com

Maximum weekly unemployment insurance benefit: $489

Wyoming is one of three states — with New Jersey and Vermont — where unemployment decreased between July 2018 and July 2019.

It wasn’t a huge drop, but the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that Wyoming’s rate fell from 4.1% to 3.6% over the past year, to just below the U.S. average of 3.7%.

18. Utah

mariakraynova / Shutterstock.com

Maximum weekly unemployment insurance benefit: $496

Utah was one of 14 states with an unemployment rate lower than the national rate of 3.7%. The state’s jobless rate came in at 2.8%.

More good news in Utah: It was ranked No. 2 in a recent analysis of the nation’s hottest state economies.

17. Vermont

Vermont couple walking in park in Autumn
Sergii Kovalov / Shutterstock.com

Maximum weekly unemployment insurance benefit: $498

Hunting for a job? The Green Mountain State is a good place to be.

Vermont’s unemployment rate in July was the lowest of any U.S. state — 2.1%, compared with the national average of 3.7%.

Vermont also was one of only three states to see unemployment decrease over the past year — dropping by 0.6% from July 2018 to July 2019.

16. Kentucky

Irina Mos / Shutterstock.com

Maximum weekly unemployment insurance benefit: $502

Kentucky’s unemployment rate for July 2019 came in at 4.3%, according to the Kentucky Center for Statistics.

That rate is up slightly (0.2%) from June, but that’s still is lower than the 4.4% rate for the state in July 2018.

15. Texas

ssuaphotos / Shutterstock.com

Maximum weekly unemployment insurance benefit: $507

Yee-haw! Unemployment in the Lone Star State held steady at an all-time low of 3.4% in July, according to the Texas Workforce Commission’s numbers, reported by the Houston Chronicle.

Employers added more than 35,000 jobs to the Texas economy in July.

14. Oklahoma

4kclips / Shutterstock.com

Maximum weekly unemployment insurance benefit: $520

In Oklahoma, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate remained unchanged in July, holding firm at 3.2%, according to Public Radio Tulsa.

That’s a half-point below the national rate of 3.7%.

That jobless rate also was unchanged in Oklahoma from July 2018.

13. Montana

SNEHIT / Shutterstock.com

Maximum weekly unemployment insurance benefit: $527

Job-hunters in Big Sky Country have some time to find a job.

Montana allows up to 28 weeks of unemployment insurance benefits, according to Howmuch.net.

Only Massachusetts, with its 30-week maximum, offers job-seekers longer to find work.

12. Colorado

Skiing in Colorado
Samot / Shutterstock.com

Maximum weekly unemployment insurance benefit: $542

This is a good time to find a job in Colorado. According to Colorado Public Radio, the state added 7,200 jobs in July, and the state’s unemployment rate dipped to 2.9%.

The good job news was widespread, CPR reports, with every metro area adding jobs and no industries reporting job losses.

11. Pennsylvania

Liberty Bell
Songquan Deng / Shutterstock.com

Maximum weekly unemployment insurance benefit: $561

The jobless rate in Pennsylvania for July rose slightly from June, up 0.1% to 3.9%, according to WTAE-TV Pittsburgh.

But the state’s rate is still relatively low, and the previous rate of 3.8%, unchanged since April, was a record low.

A year before, unemployment in the Keystone State was a fraction higher, at 4.2%.

10. Rhode Island

Woman in kayak
Ginn Tinn Photography / Shutterstock.com

Maximum weekly unemployment insurance benefit: $576

Unemployment fell slightly in tiny Rhode Island in July, dipping from 3.6% to 3.5%, according to the Providence Journal.

Most economic sectors gained jobs, with health care and social assistance work leading the way.

9. North Dakota

North Dakota woman in sunflower field
Thomas Hansson / Shutterstock.com

Maximum weekly unemployment insurance benefit: $595

If a recession is indeed on the horizon, North Dakota may be a good place to be.

The Grand Forks Herald newspaper says the state may be somewhat insulated from a downturn due to its strong oil and agriculture markets, which proved great assets for the state during the Great Recession.

That optimism was tempered by one expert who warns that even those strong markets may be less vibrant than during the 2007-09 downturn.

8. Ohio

Ohio fair
Kenneth Sponsler / Shutterstock.com

Maximum weekly unemployment insurance benefit: $598

While Ohio’s unemployment rate remains higher than the national average of 3.7%, the state is moving in the right direction.

The state’s jobless rate remained at 4% from June to July, Cleveland.com reports, noting that was the first time in 18 years that Ohio had posted two straight months of unemployment at 4% or less.

7. Oregon

Portland, Oregon waterfront
By Josemaria Toscano / Shutterstock.com

Maximum weekly unemployment insurance benefit: $624

Oregon’s unemployment was unchanged in July at 4%, Oregon Public Broadcasting reports, noting that the jobless rate for the two-month period matches the state’s lowest rate ever, last seen in 2018.

Job growth was strongest in the construction and transportation, warehousing and utility sectors.

6. Hawaii

Filip Carmen / Shutterstock.com

Maximum weekly unemployment insurance benefit: $630

Job-hunting in paradise? Low unemployment here should help.

Hawaii had unemployment of just 2.8% in July, KHON-TV reports.

That’s notably better than the national average of 3.7%.

5. Connecticut

Connecticut marina.
STUDIO M / Shutterstock.com

Maximum weekly unemployment insurance benefit: $631

Connecticut pays well as far as unemployment insurance benefits are concerned, and the state’s unemployment rate is just a tick higher than the national average.

According to The Stamford Advocate, unemployment in Connecticut was 3.6% in July, right below the U.S. average of 3.7%. Job losses were recorded in May through July.

The state still has not recovered all the jobs it lost in the last recession, the newspaper says.

4. New Jersey

People pack the beach in Atlantic City, New Jersey
Chris Parypa Photography / Shutterstock.com

Maximum weekly unemployment insurance benefit: $696

New Jersey was one of only three states to see unemployment drop between July 2018 and July 2019, and its decline was the highest among that group, which also included Vermont and Wyoming.

The Garden State’s jobless rate fell from 4% in July 2018 to 3.3% in July this year.

3. Minnesota

Minnesota water
Dan Thornberg / Shutterstock.com

Maximum weekly unemployment insurance benefit: $717

Minnesota’s unemployment rate rose slightly from June to July, ticking up to 3.4% from 3.3%, but still remains below the national rate of 3.7%, says the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

Even with that slight increase, labor force participation is high in the state, with construction employers adding 1,600 workers for that highest-gaining sector.

Minnesota was the only state to see unemployment rise (up 0.6%) from July 2018 to July 2019.

2. Massachusetts

Lighthouse in Massachusetts
Newcastle / Shutterstock.com

Maximum weekly unemployment insurance benefit: $769

There’s no good place to be out of work, but Massachusetts is better than many.

Not only is its maximum unemployment benefit the second-highest in the nation, according to HowMuch.net, but the state also allows unemployed workers to receive benefits for up to 30 weeks.

That’s the longest amount of time any state offers, more than twice the 12 weeks given unemployed workers in North Carolina and Florida.

1. Washington

MCarter / Shutterstock.com

Maximum weekly unemployment insurance benefit: $790

Washington state has the most generous maximum weekly unemployment benefit in the nation.

The state’s $790-a-week maximum benefit looks especially good compared with benefits in Mississippi, the lowest in the country with $235.

Washington, home to employers such as tech giants as Microsoft and Amazon, also boasts the hottest state economy, according to a recent analysis.

That level of unemployment benefit is especially helpful for unemployed workers in Washington, considering that the state’s tax burden for low-income residents is the nation’s worst.

Do you think unemployment benefits in your state are high? Low? Or about right? Let us know in a comment below, or at the Money Talks News page on Facebook.

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