COVID-19 Unemployment Rates and Assistance Benefits by State
With the onset of COVID-19, Americans were faced with questions only regarding their health, but also their income sustainability. With so many companies having to make the difficult decision to lay off employees and downsize, many Americans turned to unemployment assistance benefits. So, how the number of weeks of unemployment insurance and unemployment rate stack up by state?
These takeaways are based on the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities report:
- Unemployed workers in most states are eligible for up to 26 weeks of benefits from the regular state-funded unemployment assistance benefits program.
- Eight states provide less than 26 weeks of unemployment assistance benefits (i.e., Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, and South Carolina) and one state (i.e., Montana) provides more than 26 weeks.
- Extended benefits, lasting beyond the state's regular length of regular state-funded unemployment assistance benefits, are offered in 13 states plus the District of Columbia.
- For those in need, additional weeks of federally-funded unemployment assistance benefits are also available in most states through September 6, 2021.
- The majority of the states across the country have an unemployment rate that falls between 4% to 6%.
For our data, we collected the information from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Unemployment insurance (UI) or unemployment assistance benefits help Americans who have lost their jobs by temporarily replacing part of their wages. Sometimes, unemployed workers may exhaust their regular state-funded unemployment benefits before they can find work. Under certain circumstances, workers may be able to receive additional extended benefits and in some instances, federally-funded benefits. Our visualization shows a three-month (January to March 2021) average unemployment rate for each state, as well as the maximum number of weeks of benefits currently available through regular and extended benefits.
Top 5 States With the Highest Unemployment Rates
1. Hawaii - 9.5%
2. New York - 8.7%
3. California - 8.6%
4. Nevada - 8.4%
5. New Mexico - 8.4%
Top 5 States With the Lowest Unemployment Rates
1. South Dakota - 3.0%
2. Utah - 3.0%
3. Nebraska - 3.1%
4. Vermont - 3.1%
5. Idaho - 3.3%
States such as Montana and South Carolina recently decided to end their enhanced unemployment benefits in June. As companies struggle to fill vacancies, critics believe that high unemployment insurance payouts disincentivize people to rejoin the workforce.
United States unemployment rates and the duration of unemployment assistance benefits vary between states. Across the country, employment rates appear to be the highest in the West and Northeastern regions. Over the first three months of 2021, the states in these regions with the highest unemployment averaged a rate of around 8.4%. While it appears that most unemployed workers across states are eligible for up to 26 weeks of regular state-funded unemployment assistance benefits, some states provide less. Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Idaho, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, and South Carolina are among the eight states providing less than 26 weeks of benefits (averaging 18 weeks), with Montana being the only state that provides more (28 weeks).
As Americans continue to use unemployment assistance benefits during the pandemic, should there be a concern about its long-term effect on state unemployment assistance? Should states strive to equalize the regular weeks and extended weeks of unemployment assistance that are available to unemployed workers? Why or why not? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.