If you are one of the 22 million unemployed American citizens, you would hope that that there is some level of state support available to you and your family till you get back on your feet. The fact is, your entitlements depend on a whole variety of factors, and even these differ from state to state. So, which are the best and worst states to be in if you are unemployed?
The unemployment landscape
There have been positive and negative developments for America’s unemployed over the past five years.
The good news is that the latest employment statistics report that unemployment has fallen from its 2010 peak of 9.6% to just 4.7% today. Although this is certainly a positive trend, we need to bear in mind that the figures are slightly skewed by the rise in part-time and low wage employment in recent years.
On the flip side, a wave of benefit cuts swept across the states from Michigan to Illinois in 2013. The overall trend is that throughout the USA, claimants have access to less money for a shorter period.
The exact requirements relating to unemployment benefits are stipulated by your state unemployment insurance office. There is a huge variability in what is available from state to state, in terms of the amount of benefit you will receive, how long you will receive it for and the ease with which you can make a claim.
Before we take a look at the best and the worst, it is worth remembering that the “applicable state” usually means the place where you were employed during the base period. So, it is no use moving to a neighboring state in search of a better deal!
The best states
If you have to be out of work anywhere, then the general consensus is that California is the best state for unemployment benefits. Having said that, you might be surprised to hear that the amount paid out in the Golden State is actually relatively low compared to some, at an average of $450 per week. However, it makes up for this by having the most flexible and claimant-friendly approach across the USA. The can-do attitude and multitude of online resources means that the whole process of claiming is far easier in California than anywhere else.
Massachusetts is narrowly beaten into second place, but only because it falls well short of California’s exemplary service culture. If we look exclusively at the numbers, then Massachusetts clearly comes out on top, with a weekly benefit of $742, plus generous dependent allowances that mean larger families can claim over $1,000 per week.
And the worst states
Arizona is often cited as the worst place to find yourself unemployed. Not only is the dollar rate very poor, at $240 per week, but it is also notoriously difficult to file a successful claim.
However, it could be argued that North Carolina is even more unfriendly towards claimants. Although the $350 per week pay-out is better, this is only available for 13 weeks, and in some cases just five. Like Arizona, it also has a reputation for very poor levels of customer service.