Here Are The States With The Least Supportive Unemployment Systems

By Kathy Morris
Apr. 23, 2020
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A record breaking 26 million Americans have filed for unemployment in the last 5 weeks.

While the federal government has extended unemployment benefits and offered a weekly stipend, for the most part unemployment benefits are handled at a state level. The amount of relief unemployed workers receive depends on what state they call home.

Some states offer generous payouts and more time for workers to find a new job. Other states leave workers struggling to pay bills and scrambling for assistance. Where are people getting relief? And where are they just getting the busy signal?

We analyzed unemployment systems in all 50 states to find the states where the unemployed have it the worst.

States With The Least Supportive Unemployment Systems

  1. Florida
  2. South Carolina
  3. Louisiana
  4. Arizona
  5. North Carolina
  6. Georgia
  7. Tennessee
  8. Mississippi
  9. Alabama
  10. Missouri

Notice a trend? Southern states dominate the list, with the least supportive unemployment in the country. Keep reading to see why the unemployed are out of luck in these states, or jump to the bottom to see where your state landed.

How We Determined The States With The Least Supportive Unemployment

We ranked each state’s unemployment system on three factors:

  • Maximum weekly benefits
  • Maximum weeks of benefits
  • Percent of unemployed actually receiving benefits

We found each state’s maximum weekly benefit and maximum weeks of unemployment from state unemployment websites. We looked at the amounts each state allotted before the CARES Act. However, since the Act extended the weekly $600 benefit and 12 week increase evenly throughout states, the rankings do not change. The more time the unemployed have to find jobs, and the higher the maximum benefits the better for the unemployed.

We then looked at EPI data, to see the percent of unemployed who actually receive benefits in each state. While, the amount and duration of benefits is important, so is access. The percent of unemployed who receive benefits is indicative of how many barriers a state puts between the unemployed and benefits.

As seen by the recent high wait times and down websites, not all states have the staff or structure in place to support the unemployed in actually getting the benefits they’re entitled to. Others have more hurdles for the unemployed to jump through. The percent of unemployed receiving benefits ranges from only 14.8% (South Carolina) receiving benefits to 65% (New Jersey), a wide variance.

Here are the states where the unemployed are finding the least help.

1. Florida

Maximum weekly benefits: $275
Unemployment weeks: 12
Percent Of Unemployed: 18.70%

Florida has the weakest unemployment system in the nation. Only 19% of the unemployed actually get benefits in the Sunshine state. Those who do receive benefits don’t receive much. The weekly max in Florida is only $275. Middle class earners will be hard up to pay their mortgage and other bills on such a measly amount.

2. South Carolina

Maximum weekly benefits: 326
Unemployment weeks: 20
Percent Of Unemployed: 14.80%

Only 14.8% of unemployed in South Carolina actually manage to maneuver their way through the complicated system to receive unemployment benefits. The other 85% are left to make due on their own.

3. Louisiana

Maximum weekly benefits: $247
Unemployment weeks: 26
Percent Of Unemployed: 16.90%

The Bayou state has the third least supportive unemployment system in the nation. While the unemployed can receive benefits twice as long as Florida residents, the cap is low and many never receive payments at all.

4. Arizona

Maximum weekly benefits: $240
Unemployment weeks: 26
Percent Of Unemployed: 19.70%

Arizona has the second lowest benefit cap in the nation. Combine that with low access and a complicated approval process, and it’s easy to see many unemployed Arizonans are left scrambling when they lose their jobs.

5. North Carolina

Maximum weekly benefits: 350
Unemployment weeks: 12
Percent Of Unemployed: 20.50%

North Carolina residents can only receive unemployment for 12 weeks, or three months. With the long, modern job interview process of screening tests, phone interviews, and in-person interviews, North Carolinians don’t have time to be picky– they have to settle for whatever they can find quickly.

6. Georgia

Maximum weekly benefits: $365
Unemployment weeks: 14
Percent Of Unemployed: 18.80%

Georgia’s weekly benefit cap may be higher than neighboring states, but good luck getting it. Only 18.8% of unemployed Georgians actually receive a check. When they do get a check, they only receive it for fourteen weeks.

7. Tennessee

Maximum weekly benefits: $275
Unemployment weeks: 26
Percent Of Unemployed: 19.90%

Tennessee may be known as the volunteer state, but with weekly caps so low, Tennessee residents need to be pulling in a full paycheck– not the small chunk they receive from unemployment.

8. Mississippi

Maximum weekly benefits: $235
Unemployment weeks: 26
Percent Of Unemployed: 23.90%

Mississippi is a poor state with many struggling residents. It turns out when those residents lose their job, the struggle only gets harder. Mississippi has the lowest weekly benefit max in the nation, only $235. Prior to the CARE Act middle class earners who lost their job could only receive $940 a month, at most. That might pay the monthly mortgage, but it also might not.

9. Alabama

Maximum weekly benefits: $275
Unemployment weeks: 26
Percent Of Unemployed: 23.90%

Unemployed Alabamians receive $275 or less a week. Only 23.9% of unemployed in Alabama receive benefits.

10. Missouri

Maximum weekly benefits: 320
Unemployment weeks: 20
Percent Of Unemployed: 24.40%

Missouri has the 10th worst unemployment system in the nation. Unemployment benefits are on the low side with a weekly max of $320. That’s less than half of the max in Massachusetts.

Summary On States With The Most and Least Supportive Unemployment

Many are interacting with their state’s unemployed system for the first time. Residents of these 10 states may be surprised to find out just how many hoops they have to jump through to get unemployment in their state. If they manage to get through downed websites and busy signals, that is. Others who have filed may be wondering when the heck they’ll actually get the check.

Undoubtedly, the majority would agree the system is complicated and the process hasn’t been easy. Where are the unemployed receiving the most support? New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. You can see all fifty states and how they stack up below.
State Unemployment, Ranked From Least Supportive To Most

Rank State Max Benefit Weeks Unemployed Receiving
1 Florida $275 12 19%
2 South Carolina $326 20 15%
3 Louisiana $247 26 17%
4 Arizona $240 26 20%
5 North Carolina $350 12 21%
6 Georgia $365 14 19%
7 Tennessee $275 26 20%
8 Mississippi $235 26 24%
9 Alabama $275 26 24%
10 Missouri $320 20 24%
11 South Dakota $414 26 15%
12 Virginia $378 26 22%
13 Indiana $390 26 23%
14 Michigan $362 20 31%
15 Nebraska $440 26 26%
15 New Hampshire $427 26 27%
17 Idaho $448 20 32%
18 Oklahoma $539 26 23%
18 Arkansas $451 26 30%
20 Ohio $480 26 29%
21 Maine $445 26 33%
22 Delaware $400 26 40%
22 Wisconsin $370 26 42%
24 Kansas $488 16 33%
25 Texas $521 26 27%
26 Maryland $430 26 38%
27 Utah $580 26 24%
28 Kentucky $552 26 28%
29 Wyoming $508 26 32%
29 Nevada $469 26 37%
29 West Virginia $424 26 42%
32 Iowa $481 26 36%
32 Alaska $370 26 52%
34 Colorado $618 26 30%
35 New Mexico $511 26 38%
35 California $450 26 44%
37 Montana $552 26 40%
37 Illinois $484 26 45%
39 Oregon $648 26 35%
39 New York $504 26 47%
41 Washington $790 26 34%
41 Rhode Island $586 26 40%
41 Vermont $513 26 47%
44 North Dakota $618 26 40%
45 Hawaii $648 26 43%
46 Pennsylvania $572 26 55%
47 Minnesota $640 26 49%
48 Connecticut $649 26 62%
49 Massachusetts $823 26 58%
49 New Jersey $713 26 66%

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Kathy Morris

Kathy is the head of content at Zippia with a knack for engaging audiences. Prior to joining Zippia, Kathy worked at Gateway Blend growing audiences across diverse brands. She graduated from Troy University with a degree in Social Science Education.

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Topics: Rankings