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Press Release

Unemployment Rising in Every State

March 11, 2009

By Heather Boushey, , Nayla Kazzi

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WASHINGTON, DC—New data released today by the Bureau of Labor Statistics confirm that the recession has led to higher unemployment in every state across the nation. Since the recession began, employers have laid off 4.4 million workers and a record 12.5 million workers are now unemployed. Every state and the District of Columbia have unemployment rates that are higher than a year ago. All but one state—Louisiana—saw a month-over-month increase in unemployment in January.

Michigan continues to have the highest unemployment rate in the nation at 11.6 percent, followed by South Carolina (10.4 percent), Rhode Island (10.3 percent), and California (10.1 percent). January’s unemployment rate was above 7 percent in 24 of 50 states as well as in the District of Columbia.

Twenty-nine states have lost at least 2 percent of their total jobs since their employment level peaked in 2007 or 2008, during the height of the economic recovery of the 2000s. In January, nonfarm payroll employment decreased in 42 states, increased in seven states as well as the District of Columbia, and was unchanged in one state (Vermont). The sharpest job losses in January occurred in Michigan, where employers laid off 1.5 percent of their employees over the past month, followed by Arizona and Ohio, which each lost 1.1 percent of their jobs, and Nevada, where employers shed 1.0 percent of their employees.

High unemployment has led to sustained high numbers of applicants for unemployment benefits nationwide. The four-week moving average—the weekly average number of new applicants for unemployment benefits over the previous four weeks—was 641,750 last week and continues to be at highs not seen since the recession in the early 1980s. Many unemployed workers are finding that getting a new job is increasingly difficult. Nearly one in four unemployed workers (23.1 percent) have been out of work and searching for a job for at least six months, up from less than one in five (17.3 percent) a year ago. And 3.4 million workers over the past year ran out of unemployment benefits before they found a new job.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act included $7 billion in incentive funding for states to modernize their unemployment insurance systems. Nearly every state is now debating how to change their systems to cover more unemployed workers. Researchers estimate that these reforms will increase the number of workers—especially low-wage workers—eligible for benefits by at least 500,000. Fifty-five percent of workers unemployed over the past 12 months have not received any unemployment benefits.

For more information on the percentage of workers not getting benefits now, and on the Unemployment Insurance Modernization Act, see the Center for American Progress Action Fund’s Half in Ten report, “Helping the Jobless Helps Us All.

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