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Unemployment Rates and Benefits by State

unemployment rates per state

If you have to be unemployed, you might want to make sure you’re out of a job in Massachusetts. Unemployed residents of this state can receive up to $942 in unemployment benefits a week, by far the highest in any of the 50 states.

If you don’t want to be unemployed, you might want to move to South Dakota. The unemployment rate there is only 4.4 percent, far below the overall U.S. rate.

These are just two of the interesting numbers regarding unemployment rates and benefits across the United States.

The country’s recovery from the Great Recession has been a painfully slow one. There’s a reason for this: Too many people remain unemployed. Recoveries don’t feel much like recoveries when so many people are still trying to find jobs.

The national unemployment rate in the United States stood at a far too high 9.5 percent at the end of July. There were several states, though, that had unemployment rates that were far lower than this.

In Iowa, for instance, the unemployment rate stood at just 6.8 percent. That’s high, but not nearly as high as it is in most of the rest of the country. Minnesota matched that rate, while Wyoming fell just under it at 6.7 percent. In Kansas, the unemployment rate stood at 6.5 percent, while in Hawaii it had settled at 6.3 percent.

Vermont also had a low rate when compared to the country as a whole, 6 percent. Just under that was North Dakota with its unemployment rate of 5.9 percent. The news was good in New Hampshire, too, where the unemployment rate had dipped to 5.8 percent, and in Nebraska, where it was a low 4.7 percent.

Finally, South Dakota beat them all, with a low unemployment rate of just 4.4 percent.

Why do these states far so well when it comes to the jobless rate? A combination of factors are at play. Some of the states have a highly educated workforce perfect for skilled jobs. Others benefit from diverse economies; because they don’t rely heavily on just one industry, they’re better able to weather bad economic times.

Of the states with the lowest unemployment rates, Vermont boasted the highest number of residents who had earned bachelor’s degrees or higher, 33.6 percent. Close behind were New Hampshire with 32.5 percent, and Minnesota with 31 percent. In Hawaii, 29.5 percent of residents have earned at least a bachelor’s degree, while in Kansas that number stands at 28.8 percent.

In Nebraska, 27.3 percent of residents have earned at least a bachelor’s degree. In North Dakota that number stands at 25.7 percent, while in South Dakota it’s at 25 percent. In Iowa, 24.3 percent have attained that level of college education. Overall in the United States, 27.5 percent of the population has earned a bachelor’s degree or higher.

Each of the low-unemployment states features a diverse economy.

In Hawaii, for instance, major industries include tourism and food and apparel exports. The state also features the highest percentage of millionaires of any in the country. In Vermont, dairy, logging, tourism and insurance are the top industries. Vermont also ranks 17th in the United States in mortgage affordability.

Agriculture and electrical equipment rule in New Hampshire, whose residents have one of the highest median salaries in the country. In Nebraska, freight transportation, technology and information technology careers help power the state economy. Retail, healthcare and finance help power South Dakota, through Ellsworth Air Force Base ranks as the second largest single employer.

North Dakota relies on such varied industries as agriculture, petroleum and food processing; while in Iowa, biotechnology and financial businesses are key. Minnesota provides a host of services and raw materials. The state also boasts 33 of the nation’s top-100 publicly traded firms.

In Wyoming, mineral extraction and agriculture are important industries, while in Kansas grains and aerospace are critical. Those unfortunate enough to be unemployed will get higher weekly benefits depending upon in which state they live. In Massachusetts, for instance, unemployed workers receive a maximum of $628 to $942 in unemployment benefits a week, the most generous financial benefits in the country. In Connecticut, workers are eligible to receive a maximum of $519 to $594 a week, while in Rhode Island those numbers range from $528 to $660 a week.

Other states are far less generous. In Tennessee, unemployed workers are only eligible to receive a maximum of $275 a week in unemployment benefits, while in Alabama, that number stands at $255. Bringing up the rear is Mississippi, where unemployed workers can bring home a maximum of just $230 in unemployment benefits each week. That’s just $11,960 a year.

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