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States With the Highest and Lowest Unemployment Rates

While unemployment affects the entire U.S., unemployment rates vary wildly from state to state.

unemployment rate

The current U.S. unemployment rate sits at 3.7%, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. That equates to about 6.1 million Americans without work.

The unemployment rate is the percentage of unemployed workers out of the total labor force. Whether someone became jobless willingly or not has no affect on their unemployment status.

“Persons are classified as unemployed if they do not have a job, have actively looked for work in the prior four weeks and are currently available for work. Persons who were not working and were waiting to be recalled to a job from which they had been temporarily laid off are also included as unemployed,” according to the BLS.

Rates are measured by the U.S. government, which releases news reports, free to the public, on a monthly basis. The following results are based on data gathered by the BLS as of July 2019.

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States with the Highest Unemployment Rates

  1. Alaska
    Unemployment Rate: 6.3%
    Above U.S. Average: 2.6%
  2. District of Columbia
    Unemployment Rate: 5.6%
    Above U.S. Average: 1.9%
  3. Mississippi
    Unemployment Rate: 5.1%
    Above U.S. Average: 1.4%
  4. Arizona and New Mexico
    Unemployment Rate: 4.9%
    Above U.S. Average: 1.2%
  5. West Virginia
    Unemployment Rate: 4.7%
    Above U.S. Average: 1%
  6. Washington
    Unemployment Rate: 4.6%
    Above U.S. Average: 0.9%
  7. Kentucky, Louisiana and Michigan
    Unemployment Rate: 4.3%
    Above U.S. Average: 0.6%
  8. Illinois and North Carolina
    Unemployment Rate: 4.2%
    Above U.S. Average: 0.5%
  9. California and Nevada
    Unemployment Rate: 4.1%
    Above U.S. Average: 0.4%
  10. New York, Ohio and Oregon
    Unemployment Rate: 4.0%
    Above U.S. Average: 0.3%

Alaska is currently the state with the highest unemployment rate. It’s the largest state by area in the U.S. and has a population of almost 740,000. Additionally, Alaska contains the second coldest city in the U.S., Anchorage, which has an average winter temperature of 18.8 degrees and a record low of -38 degrees.

States with the Lowest Unemployment Rates

  1. Vermont
    Unemployment Rate: 2.1%
    Below U.S. Average: 1.6%
  2. North Dakota
    Unemployment Rate: 2.4%
    Below U.S. Average: 1.3%
  3. Iowa and New Hampshire
    Unemployment Rate: 2.5%
    Below U.S. Average: 1.2%
  4. Hawaii and Utah
    Unemployment Rate: 2.8%
    Below U.S. Average: 0.9%
  5. Colorado, Idaho, Massachusetts, South Dakota and Virginia
    Unemployment Rate: 2.9%
    Below U.S. Average: 0.8%
  6. Maine and Wisconsin
    Unemployment Rate: 3%
    Below U.S. Average: 0.7%
  7. Nebraska
    Unemployment Rate: 3.1%
    Below U.S. Average: 0.6%
  8. Oklahoma
    Unemployment Rate: 3.2%
    Below U.S. Average: 0.5%
  9. Alabama, Delaware, Florida, Kansas, Missouri and New Jersey
    Unemployment Rate: 3.3%
    Below U.S. Average: 0.4%
  10. Arkansas, Indiana, Minnesota, Montana, South Carolina and Texas
    Unemployment Rate: 3.4%
    Below U.S. Average: 0.3%

Vermont, also called the Green Mountain State, currently has the U.S.’s lowest unemployment rate. Vermont has a population of almost 630,000 and is known for its natural landscapes, including forests and mountains ideal for hiking and skiing. Vermont also produces the most maple syrup in the U.S.

According to the news release for July 2019, a majority of the industries mentioned in the report showed little change in terms of shifts in employment. Jobs in construction, government, information, leisure and hospitality, manufacturing, retail trade, transportation and warehousing and wholesale trade changed very little month to month.

Job types that saw growth are the ones you’d likely expect: financial activities, health care, professional and technical services as well as social assistance. On the other end of the spectrum, the mining industry saw a decline in July, losing about 5,000 jobs, according to the  BLS’s latest news release.

To see the rest of the U.S. unemployment rates by state, see the BLS chart, here. The data is adjusted seasonally.

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