There are a few states that are not very nice to their unemployed. Reasons including high unemployment rates, wealth disparities, and low unemployment benefits are among the factors cited for warranting these states their dismal distinction. But what are the eight best states for the unemployed? Using the same three criteria — income replacement, or average unemployment benefits (as of 4Q 2012) as a percentage of average state income per capita; unemployment rate (as of March 2013); and wealth disparity, the ratio of households with incomes of at least $200,000 to those with incomes of less than $10,000 (as of 2011 Census ACS) — each state’s rank was averaged. See if you recognize any geographic pattern among these eight best states.
We begin with Iowa, a state that boasts an unemployment rate of only 4.9 percent, a full 2.6 percentage points below the national average of 7.5 percent. And that’s not America’s Heartland’s only redeeming quality. The state’s $328 average in weekly unemployment benefits far surpasses those of the two states that flank it on the list — Montana at $275 and Oklahoma at $281. Iowa’s unemployment benefits as a percentage of income also subsequently post a high number of 40.5 percent.
Up next is Oklahoma, whose unemployment rate sits 1/10 a percentage point higher than Iowa at 5.0 percent. Oklahoma and Iowa actually tie in ranking, both #44 on “Worst Places To Be Unemployed,” thus making them both the #7 best states to be unemployed. While Iowa bears an ever so slightly better unemployment rate than Oklahoma, the latter redeems itself with a better rank on income replacement. Unfortunately, the state also has the 7th most miserable residents, which is probably not a status it likes to broadcast.
Kentucky comes in at #6 on our list. The state suffers an employment rate significantly higher than the states that envelope it, but it maintains its top-6 distinction with its impressive rank on income replacement, sitting at #47. To put it in perspective, remember that the place who holds #1 in this criteria, the District of Columbia, is also the worst place to be unemployed on our list. Benefits as a percentage of income for Kentucky are also high at 43.8 percent, but the state still holds the 7th greatest concentration of senior poverty.
Next up: Utah, a state that is sitting pretty with an impressively low unemployment rate of 4.9 percent. Utah’s other claim to fame: it ranks #51 on income replacement, meaning that out of the nation’s 50 states plus the District of Columbia, Utah does the best job of providing its unemployed with benefits that help compensate for missing income. Its benefits as a percentage of income post a striking 50.4 percent. The state also boasts the nation’s most volunteers.
Idaho ranks #4 on the list with an unemployment rate that is 1.3 percentage points higher than Utah’s. It follows Utah as the state with the second most volunteers, but it also has the third fewest female top executives. Its average weekly unemployment benefits are much lower than those of Utah, but the state’s low report on resident wealth disparity helps afford it its reputable status.
Arkansas makes top three on best places to be unemployed. It has an unemployment rate of 7.2, which is under the national average of 7.5. District of Columbia’s unemployment rate is 8.5, to keep things in perspective. Arkansas also has an impressive rank in income replacement at 48, with benefits as a percentage of income yielding 44.1 percent. Its status as the third best place to be unemployed helps it compensate for also being the #1 place with the fewest female top executives, and the fifth state with the most miserable residents.
2. New Mexico
Coming in at lucky #2 is New Mexico, a state that is also the third place with the most showbiz jobs. New Mexico still has a relatively high unemployment rate of 6.9 compared to others that came earlier on the list, including Iowa and Utah. However, the southwest state also boasts the third best rank on income replacement, offering weekly unemployment benefits that average as high as $308.
1. West Virginia
Lastly, should you be unemployed, country roads will hopefully take you home to West Virginia. The state holds the #1 best place to be unemployed on our list. Its unemployment rate is 7.0, half a percentage point below the national average, but its average income per capita is less than half that of the worst place to be unemployed, District of Columbia. West Virginia’s average income per capita is $34,447 while D.C.’s is $74,710. Its data also demonstrates a low wealthy disparity among its residents, while the opposite rings true for D.C.
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