Economic Snapshot | Wages, Incomes, and Wealth

Long-Term Unemployment Far Exceeds Pre-Great Recession Levels in Virtually Every State

During last night’s State of the Union address, President Obama stressed the urgency of reinstating the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program for long-term unemployed workers, which, in an unprecedented move, Congress allowed to expire last month. This federal program typically provided a maximum of 28 weeks of additional benefits to workers who lost a job, through no fault of their own, and had exhausted their regular state benefits but were still unable to find work. With the program’s expiration, more than 1.5 million jobless workers have already stopped receiving aid and more than 2 million more will exhaust their benefits by the end of this year.

Laid-off workers will now lose any support after only six months, the maximum duration of unemployment insurance benefits in most states. The map below shows the share of the unemployed who have been jobless for six months or more in each state. There are 28 states, plus the District of Columbia, where more than a third of the unemployed have been jobless for six months or more. In New Jersey (46.6 percent), the District of Columbia (46.6 percent), and Florida (46.2 percent), nearly half of the unemployed are long-term unemployed.

With long-term unemployment still at record levels, Congress’ failure to renew this program is shocking; long-term unemployment benefits have never been cut off before with long-term unemployment so high. The highest the national long-term unemployment share ever reached prior to the Great Recession was 26 percent in June of 1983. Currently, there are 41 states (plus the District of Columbia) with long-term unemployment shares above 26 percent.

Interactive Map

Long-term share of the unemployed, by state, 2013: Share of the unemployed who have been jobless for 27 weeks or more

State Long-term share of the unemployed
United States 37.6%
Alabama 34.5%
Alaska 26.2%
Arizona 31.6%
Arkansas 31.0%
California 40.5%
Colorado 37.3%
Connecticut 43.4%
Delaware 34.8%
District of Columbia 46.6%
Florida 46.2%
Georgia 41.8%
Hawaii 33.3%
Idaho 23.9%
Illinois 41.3%
Indiana 29.1%
Iowa 21.0%
Kansas 27.8%
Kentucky 32.4%
Louisiana 34.7%
Maine 30.4%
Maryland 36.5%
Massachusetts 36.0%
Michigan 36.4%
Minnesota 26.8%
Mississippi 40.8%
Missouri 39.6%
Montana 24.6%
Nebraska 27.8%
Nevada 39.7%
New Hampshire 31.6%
New Jersey 46.6%
New Mexico 41.3%
New York 44.4%
North Carolina 43.3%
North Dakota 19.6%
Ohio 34.6%
Oklahoma 23.5%
Oregon 35.8%
Pennsylvania 39.9%
Rhode Island 44.6%
South Carolina 36.0%
South Dakota 17.2%
Tennessee 32.2%
Texas 29.9%
Utah 22.7%
Vermont 23.7%
Virginia 35.2%
Washington 30.4%
West Virginia 35.6%
Wisconsin 34.1%
Wyoming 21.4%

Source: Economic Policy Institute analysis of Current Population Survey microdata

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