Visualizing Unemployment Benefits by State

The first half of 2019 has yielded some optimism for the U.S. economy. For example, unemployment is near its lowest point in about 50 years. At the same time, the U.S. economy has experienced the longest period of sustained economic growth ever. However, recent concerns about slower wage gains and a global economic slowdown raise the question of how long the flourishing economy will continue to last, and what the consequences will be for individuals who lose their jobs if the economy turns sour. Our latest visualization highlights how unemployment benefits differ from state to state, including how much an individual can receive in unemployment payments and for how many weeks they can be received.

Unemployment Benefits by State

  • Each state has its own way of calculating the maximum unemployment benefit payment that a person can receive.
  • Some states, like Georgia and North Carolina, set the maximum number of weeks someone can receive unemployment insurance benefits based on the unemployment rate of the state.
  • The maximum number of weeks that a person can receive unemployment benefits ranges from 12 weeks in Florida and North Carolina to 30 weeks in Massachusetts.
  • Compared to the rest of the country, states in the Southeast tend to have lower maximum weekly unemployment payments.

All maximum benefits data comes from each state’s Department of Labor, and average figures can be found in the U.S. Department of Labor’s database. In the visualization, the numbers in the pink circles show the maximum number of weeks that an individual can receive unemployment benefits in a state. The dollar amounts in each state also show the maximum weekly benefit payment amount. To highlight overall trends, each state is also shaded in green, with lighter green indicating lower maximum weekly payments and darker green indicating higher maximum weekly payments.

Unemployment Benefits by State (Highest Pay)

1. Washington - $790
2. Massachusetts - $769
3. Minnesota - $717
4. New Jersey - $696
5. Connecticut - $631

Unemployment Benefits by State (Lowest Pay)

1. Mississippi - $235
2. Arizona - $240
3. Louisiana - $247
4. Alabama - $265
5. Florida - $275

Across states, the most common way to calculate the unemployment benefit amount is to use a percentage of the individual’s base period earnings. The Maximum Benefit Amount (MBA) is either the maximum number of weeks multiplied by the person’s Weekly Benefit Amount (WBA), or a percentage of base period earnings; whichever is lesser. However, some states like Iowa and Pennsylvania have additional variations based on if the unemployed person is married or has dependents.

Because there are so many uncertainties about the future of the economy, unemployment will be one of the hot-button issues of the 2020 election cycle. What do unemployment benefits look like in your state? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

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