Unemployment Stats in the United States


While the unemployment rate in the U.S. has improved considerably within the last few years, there are still millions of citizens who are without work. Business closings, hour shortages, and other factors contribute to the number of citizens who are currently seeking work. Recently the unemployment rate has been hovering around 8-8.5 percent. Unemployment has been a huge issue for political campaigns at all governmental levels as voters are looking for solutions. While there does not seem to be a definite solution to the issue, both employers and the government are working towards improving the issues that attribute to the overall unemployment.

unemployment_rate_graph 2015

Unemployment Insurance

In order to help those who are actively seeking employment, the federal government supplies unemployment insurance that is administered at the state level. The goal of unemployment insurance is to provide temporary relief until you return the work force and is administered on either a weekly or bi-weekly basis.

Unemployment in the U.S.

As you will see from the map below, unemployment is not an issue for just certain areas. The highest levels of unemployment are in Nevada, Rhode Island and California. One area that has been severely plagued by unemployment is the West Coast. Two of the highest rates in the country are Nevada (11.6) and California (10.7). These coincidentally also happen to be areas that have been most heavily affected by the housing bubble burst of 2007 which has been the cause of many economic issues in the past several years.

Unemployment Rate by State 2012

As of June, the number of citizens who are receiving some sort of unemployment benefit was 5.8 million. This is a drop of almost 2 million from last year’s number of 7.3 million during the same period.  This could be a good sign of things to come.

Funding Unemployment Insurance

A common misconception is that unemployment insurance is funded by individual tax dollars. This governmental assistance is actually paid by employers who must pay state and federal unemployment tax in accordance with The Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA).

Applying for Unemployment

You can find the office that handles unemployment benefits in your state by selecting your location on the map here: Resources by State. Typically you can apply online or by phone. Refer to your state’s website for more information and eligibility requirements.

The best way to insure that you can receive benefits in a timely manner is to apply as soon as you become unemployed. Since states do not have a required wait period for citizens to apply, the sooner you can file the better.

43 comments

  • Susan D

    I was forced (from my perspective) into early retirement due to contract changes. I had planned to work until 65. I currently am 63 and have worked since I was 15. I would have lost significant medical benefits due to contract changes If I had not resigned by the end of 2016. I was not fired or laid off. I have zero income and no medical benefits. Am I entitled to unemployment benefits?

    • Sounds like a material change in your employment contract motivated the quit. Normally, you should have first attempted to preserve the employment relationship with the employer by addressing the grievance in writing, requesting a return to the original terms of employment. That said, much depends on your state.

      Absolutely, apply for benefits. State you were discharged – effectively by changing the terms of the employment contract employer discharged you from original job and offered you new, unsuitable work not comparable to the other job. Chances are you will experience an initial denial of benefits, but could win on appeal.

      Again, much depends on your state. If you are in CA, NJ, NY, PA, for example, your chances are much better at appeal than in say, AZ, LA, TX, FL.

      Good luck.

  • MJC

    I came to live in Florida at the end of July from living in Texas. I started full time work on 8/9/2016 here in Florida. When I started work I was 5 months pregnant and employer knew. During the last months in my pregnancy I found out my son had Down Sydrome amd heart defect. My employer knew all this. On 11/17/16 gave birth to my son am on leave. With my sons situation I can only work part time. My employer said they can not accommodate that request as they need fulltime. I explain I was seeking part time as my son has medical restrictions and will need heart surgery and recovery period. Both his doctors wont even release him to go to daycares so I found someone to watch him but only part time. Im willing to go back fulltime after his recovery from heart surgery this year. They still denied me and terminated my employment with them. I asked if I could work part time in any department at any of their branches and they said No.

    Would I qualify for for unemployment? Before coming to Florida at the wnd of July I worked in Texas fulltime for years.

    • If you apply now, FL will use wages October 1, 2015-September 30, 2016 – which means only a few weeks of FL wages are in your base period. You would need to be applying for a combined-wage claim including the TX earnings. FL only pays $275/wk for 13 weeks. On FL wages alone, you do not qualify for a claim at this time.

      At this time you should apply in TX which has a much higher maximum benefit of $493 and pays for 26 weeks. You made an attempt to preserve the employment relationship. Nonetheless, you were discharged – much better for you than if you had quit. TX should approve the claim but will want evidence of Able & Available – i.e, assurances you can search for and accept work – before it pays benefits.

      Take it one step at a time and work toward getting a claim in Texas. If initially denied, appeal. TX is not a claimant-friendly state, but neither is FL. TX, otoh, is much more professional and timely in its claims processing.

  • Christle Butman

    Hi there,
    I’ve filed my claims since the beginning of December. I have received 2 debit cards so far. The determination history remains blank. And the homepage said my benefits would be transferred to the card on Jan 3rd. I still have zero balance. What must I do?? Calling never seems to work for me. I’m reading your other comments to others about reaching out to the state rep. If tgat is the best solution, can you please let me know what state Rep mine would be for Las Vegas, NV 89148. I can’t seem to figure it out. Thank you so muchhhh!

  • Sherri

    I’ve worked for the same employer for 2 years and 3 months. I was classified as an employee, then got moved to a 1099. When I read the regulations regarding 1099 employment, I’m not a 1099. I got let go on January 3rd, 2017. Will I still get benefits? Also, I have been trying for two weeks to get through on the employment line. Should I go to an unemployment office?

    • Your state?
      When did you begin work on 1099?
      Yes, the state will reclassify 1099 wages if you request. The procedure is to apply for benefits, get a decision on monetary eligibiity. If 1099 wages were not included in the base period used, call the state and ask them to do a wage investigation.

      At this point, any state in which you apply will be using earnings October 1, 2015-September 30, 2016. If you were put on 1099 after that, your current claim won’t be affected. You should still, however, report the 1099 wages to the state for reclassification. You will want them in your LAG a year from now should you need a second claim.

  • BRIAN LEMON

    My wife is currently collecting benefits and seeking employment, but as of this week has discovered she has a tumor in her chest that requires surgery. She will be laid up for 4-6 weeks recovery and not able to seek employment. Will she still be able to collect current benefits?

    • No. Benefits are paid to people who are Able and Available to search for and accept work. Your state may have a short-term disability program. CA and NJ are two of those states.

  • Shane

    I have been filing for unemployment for 2 months and I just got it in my card. the problem is I only have 250 and the rest of my 2500 wasn’t deposited. Why is that?

    • Which weeks were paid? Your state? Sounds like this is just the first payment, and others should follow. Not all retro weeks are paid at once. Depends on the state’s cash position.

      • Shane

        The most recent week, the week of dec 25-31st was paid. Which is only one of 10 weeks that were filed. I’ve been filling since the last week of October. And Nevada.

        • That makes sense. Going forward you should be paid timely. Getting the back weeks might take a bit longer, depending on NV’s cash position. If you don’t see the rest of your money by Friday and/or can’t get through on the phone, visit one of NV’s offices. Someone there can look at your account and may have an explanation. Offices also have phone banks direct to reps – you may have a better chance of getting through there.

          Know that back in the day during the Great Recession, some states were paying retro weeks incrementally – not all at once – ex: in three payments spanning six weeks. CA did this routinely. Especially appeals money would take months to pay out. So, ability to pay the remaining $2,500 may be easy or difficult for NV.

          I don’t think this will be your experience, actually. You should probably see the entire sum next week sometime.

  • yellowcat

    I just won my appeal. Do I need to recertify for the weeks denied?

  • k

    Can unemployment in Michigan be collected while collecting social security retirement benefits?

  • Janetta Parker

    Please help me I started my claim the end of October I was laid off and have been certifying every week. I have not received any payments and it’s been 2 months now. I have bills that need to be paid what can I do al my status says is in progress. Who do I need to contact about this.

  • Christina Cross

    Gosh please somebody help me!

    My company closed in September. I am eligible for benefits. I started receiving the benefits the end of October. I went in to have surgery – which of course I have highly documented – and could not make an orientation two weeks ago as I was on medication and the drive was very far. They have taken my benefits away either for now or for good! I have called emailed and left messages worked with the chatlines intensely and cannot get any reply or any assistance.
    I have completed everything I was told to complete – all of the paperwork – all of the job application log pages – I have applied to over 272 positions in two months.(and I printed them all out) I am signed up for the Indiana required Site.

    It is December and I am out of money – I am trying to get my son back home who is a Marine and I have nowhere to turn and these people will not call me back or answer a phone

    I have done nothing wrong and I need my benefits for. Unemployment now!

    My God what can I do! Please HELP

    • Medical issues are disqualifyng for unemployment benefits. Unless you incurred outpatient surgery and did not require a recovery period, you should not have been claiming any of those weeks.

      Indiana has a two issues, here. One, you missed the orientation – and missed it because of medical reasons. You will need at the very least a doctor’s release before Indiana will pay benefits again. Hopefully, you are not in overpayment status because of the surgery.

      Since you’re getting nowhere with Indiana, immediately email your Indiana state representative. He will contact Indiana, Indiana will contact you. This is the only way now to get through to Indiana to get your claim straightened out. Find your representative, here – if you’ve had no change as a result of the recent election, either link will do:

      Through 2016:

      https://iga.in.gov/legislative/2014/legislators/

      Beginning 2017:

      https://iga.in.gov/legislative/find-legislators/

  • Diane Tarlton

    I received a severance package from my company in January 2016 and have not worked since. Would I be eligible for unemployment benefits. Is there a time limit for applying for unemployment benefits?
    I am in the state of sc.

    • If you apply now, benefits would be based on earnings July 1, 2015-June 30, 2016. Six months’ earnings should provide a decent benefit. Apply immediately. After 12/31/16 you will lose a quarter of earnings and eligibility.

  • Maria

    I was laid off at the end of winter and received 30 weeks severance.. I was told I couldn’t receive unemployment benefits while receiving severance, so I was instructed to wait to file until my severance was exhausted. Will my receipt of severance disqualify me from receiving unemployment benefits now? Though I’ve been searching for a new position, I’m still unemployed. Thank you.

    • Severance is STATE specific. There is no way to answer this competently without knowing your state.

      That said, you should apply for benefits before year-end so as not to lose another quarter of earnings in your base period. Further, depending on your state, that severance may provide an unbalanced high quarter which, in PA, might preclude your receiving benefits at all if you delay any longer.

  • Jell

    I was filing my weekly benefits for last week since no hours were worked. The prior week a partial week was claimed and paid. During the application it said to reopen your claim and answer yes to question one. I did that but am not sure now if the weekly benefit completed and will still be paid on Tuesday

    • No, you probably won’t be paid on Tuesday until you talk to a rep. Some states will reopen the claim in your situation, most will not until an investigation is completed as to why you are no longer reporting income. This is one of the pitfalls of working part-time – when the income stops, the states want to know why. Call your state on Monday.

    • Tamika Shonte Allen

      I was told by my supervisor that I was fired this morning and not given a good reason why I talk to my shop owner to confirm and he won’t give me a straight answer should I file unemployment

  • scott butler

    I was laid off for lack of work drew hi benefits for 5 months was rehired worked for 6 months was laid off again reopened my existing claim and drew the rest of the benefits out of that claim which was 3 checks and then I filed a new claim and it says active issues after I certified am I going to be able to draw again surely I will considering I was laid off and only drew 3 checks from my old claim and was approved for it again this isn’t a extension it’s a new claim I filed any help would be very appreciated

    • It’s a brand new claim, you will be able to collect once it has been processed and approved. Next time you have a Q, post on the page for the state which is paying your benefits, because each state is very different.

  • RA

    I live in Maryland but have not been employed in Maryland for over 6 years. I was self-employed in Maryland with other sources of income for the past 5 years, which have now ceased. Before that time I was employed in Maryland earning over $100,000 annually. Now that the self-employed income has stopped, would I qualify for unemployment ? I have lived and worked in Maryland for over 20 years.

    • Unemployment benefits are paid based on eligible W-2 earnings in the base period. If you apply now, MD will review W-2 earnings July 1, 2015-June 30, 2016. Since you’ve been self-employed for the past five years, there are no wages on which to base a claim. Further, even if you had W-2 wages during the available base period, the SE work precludes you collecting on those wages. In order to qualify for benefits, the last job you had must be W-2. States consider SE work within your control. You can CHOOSE whether or not to work, whereas W-2 work is controlled by the employer who can, against your will, choose to discharge you. Therein lies the difference.

  • Sam

    Termed from my job on Oct 3 for misconduct due to an arrest that yielded criminal charges. My friend I gave a ride to when stopped and searched he had drugs and denied they were his. I told my boss the truth as to why I was detained (unpaid ticket) at the time the officer was not sure who he was charging with the criminal charges and I was released only to find out the officer charged me as well as the passenger. Did I commit misconduct if I was unaware of the criminal charges against me?

    • Well, not technically, but you will need to prove that. The first step is to get that ticket reversed and off your record. You better see an attorney. Otherwise, any state will probably deny benefits because you are on record as being charged with possession.

      • Michael

        I am working full time in construction. My employers customer shut our job site down for one week. My boss said I could apply for the down week as “lack of work”. Last day worked was 11-19-16.
        Go back to work on 11-29-16. Seeking compinsation for week begining 11-20 thru 11-27-2016.

        • Michael

          I already have an open claim from earlier in the year. Concerning the week of no work caused by employers customer shutting down the job for 10 days.

          • Call your state to reopen that claim – immediately. You actually should have done this last week as soon as the layoff occurred. Hopefully, your state will still reopen the claim and allow you to claim last week. There is a chance that window has closed – it depends on your state.