How Much does Unemployment Compensation Vary by State?

Contrary to the popular belief that unemployment compensation is the same nationwide, it varies from state to state based on their laws. While every state has their own unemployment funds and regulations, each state has the right to determine the amount they are willing to pay to each qualifying individual. The amount of unemployment funds a person receives is only a percentage of wages from previous employment, and will never top the state maximum weekly benefit. Benefits are taxable and not always relative to the cost of living in each state.

Northeast

The states in this region are: Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey. Rhode Island residents have the potential to receive the highest weekly unemployment stipend in the country, at a whopping $641, while New York residents receive a maximum of $405.

Midwest

The states in this region are: Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Minnesota, Iowa, and Missouri. Residents of Nebraska may only receive up to $298 a week, where residents of Wisconsin can receive up to $355 per week.

South

The states in this region are: Delaware, Maryland, District of Columbia, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, and Louisiana. Residents of Louisiana receive only $258 a week, whereas residents of North Carolina can receive up to $476 a week.

West

The states in this region are: Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico Alaska, Washington, Oregon, California, and Hawaii. Residents of Hawaii receive up to $523 a week, whereas residents of Arizona only receive $240 a week, among the lowest in the country.

In 2009, the unemployment program got a boost due to the stimulus package. The overall amount of money each week increased $25. Before 2009, all unemployment income was taxable as income, and now the first $2400 earned is tax free. Some unemployed individuals are now eligible for up to 20 more weeks of unemployment benefits, and if they live in certain states with a higher unemployment rate, they may be able to get 13 more weeks of benefits on top of that. Though this is a not a complete list of state benefits, the lowest benefit is in Puerto Rico with $133 a week, and the highest is in Rhode Island with $641. Regardless of where a person lives, the benefit will fall between those two numbers. Depending on the number of hours worked, the total benefit may be less than 50% of full time weekly income and the total time benefits can be received may be reduced.

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