10 US States With The Highest Unemployment Rates

Employment rates in Alaska, Mississippi, and District of Columbia are the lowest in the US.

According to OECD (Organization for economic-Co-operation-and-Development), unemployment is when individuals above a specified age are not self-employed or in a paying job and are available for work in a certain period. Generally, unemployment increases during a recession and decreases during periods of economic prosperity. Unemployment and job creation are affected by numerous factors, including demographics, automation, education, global competitions, and economic conditions. These factors also determine the wage levels, unemployment duration, and the number of workers. The United States had an unemployment rate of about 3.5% on September 2019, which is the lowest it has ever had since 1969, with the unemployment rate of some states like Alaska being as high as 6.2%. The country’s unemployment rate increased to 3.6% in October before decreasing to 3.5% in November. 

10 American States With The Highest Unemployment Rates


Other than being the largest state by area and the least populous in the U.S., Alaska has the highest unemployment rate in the country. Over the last 4 decades the average unemployment of the United States has been 6.3% however in Alaska it has averaged at 7.9% since 1976. Alaska’s unemployment rate was 6.2% in September 2019, which was 2.7% higher than the country’s rate. The lowest unemployment rate in Alaska in the last decade was 6.2% (August 2019) while the highest was 8% (August 2009). The number of jobless individuals peaked at 28,946people in January 2010. There were about 21,701 unemployed individuals in Alaska by the end of September 2019. Currently, Alaska’s economy is not doing badly. Alaska’s per-capita-personal income ranked seventh in 2018, and according to a study conducted by Phoenix Marketing International in 2013, Alaska had the fifth-highest number of millionaire’s per-capita in the country.


Mississippi’s unemployment rate grew by 0.1 percentage points from September 2019 (5.4%) to October 2019 (5.5%). Mississippi’s rate was 1.9% higher than the country’s rate for October. The unemployment rate peaked high at 10.9% in February 2010. The unemployment rate has grown from June 2018 (4.7%) to 5.5% in October 2019. The monthly unemployment rate has been growing in 2019 from 4.7% in January. In the last decade, the number of jobless individuals peaked at 137,350people in February 2010, before dropping to 59,311people (lowest) in September 2018. The number of unemployed Mississippians in September 2019 was 69,324people.

 District of Columbia

The unemployment rate of Washington, D.C. reduced from 5.5% in August to 5.4% in September 2019. In September, the unemployment rate of Washington, D.C. rate was 1.9% points higher than the national unemployment rate. In the last decade, the unemployment rate of Washington, D.C. peaked at 10.5% in June 2011 before dropping to 5.3% (the lowest) in October 2018. In the last decade, the number of unemployed individuals in Washington, D.C. peaked at 36.759people in June 2011 and troughed at 21,532people in October 2018. There were about 22,541 jobless people in Washington D.C. September 2019.

New Mexico

New Mexico had the third-highest unemployment rate in the U.S. in September 2019 of 4.9%. The rate for the month was 1.4% higher than the country’s unemployment rate. New Mexico’s rate peaked at 8.3% in May 2010 while its lowest rate was 4.8% in May 2018. The number of unemployed individuals peaked at 77,761people in June 2010 before dropping to its lowest in the last decade at 44,910people in June 2018. There were 46,944individuals in New Mexico in September 2019.  


The unemployment rate of Arizona of September 2019 was 4.9% which accounted for 175,783 unemployed individuals. The monthly unemployment rate for the month was 1.4% points higher than the country’s monthly rate. Arizona’s rate in the last decade peaked at 10.9% in November 2009, which is 6% points lower than in September with the lowest being August 2017 at 4.7%. The total number of employed individuals in Arizona in 2016 was 2,379,409. The largest employer in 2016 was Banner Health 39,000people, followed by Walmart Stores, Inc (34,856people) and Kroger Co (16,856people).  

West Virginia

West Virginia’s unemployment rate of September 2019 was 1.2% point higher than the country’s national rate for the month. The state’s lowest rate for the last decade was 4.6% (August 2019), and the highest rate was 8.8% (October 2010). The number of unemployed individuals in West Virginia in September 2019 was 37,153people. The highest number of jobless individuals peaked at 71,782people in November 2010. The number of unemployed persons in the state grew by 1,216people from August to September 2019. The largest employers in West Virginia in 2019 is WVU (West Virginia United) Medicine (7,000people), followed by CAMC Health System is Charleston (6,858).


The unemployment rate of Washington remained the same from May to September at 4.6% before dropping to 4.5% in October 2019. There were 178,988 unemployed individuals in Washington in September 2019. In the last 10years, Washington’s unemployment rate peaked at 10.4% (December 2009) and troughed in June 2018 (4.4%). The number of unemployed individuals in Washington peaked at 367,424people by January 2010 and troughed in July 2018 (167,340individuals). the gap between Washington’s unemployment rate and the National rate has been widening since January 2019. The national unemployment rate has been decreasing, while the rate of the state has increased.


Kentucky’s monthly unemployment rate increased from 4% (May 2019) to 4.4% (September 2019) before reducing to 4.3% in October. The highest unemployment rate in Kentucky in the last decade was 10.7% (June 2009), while the lowest was 4% (March 2019). There were about 90,533unemployed individuals in Kentucky in September. The number of unemployed individual in Kentucky peaked at 221,124people (July 2009). The lowest number of unemployed people in Kentucky was in March 2019 at 82,932people.


Louisiana’s unemployment rate increased from 4.3% in September 2019 to 4.5% in October 2019. The lowest unemployment rate of Louisiana in the last 10years was 4.3% (June 2019) while the highest was 8.4% (November 2010). In the last decade, the highest number of unemployed people in the state per month was 174,806people (November 2010) while the lowest was 90,154people (August 2019). The number of jobless individuals exceeded 100,000 only twice in 2019 (January and February).


Michigan’s unemployment rate dropped by 0.1percentage points from 4.3% (July 2019) to 4.2% (September 2019) when there were about 207,654jobless individuals in the state. Michigan’s rate troughed in August 2018 at 3.9% and peaked at 14.6% in June 2009. The unemployment rate has reduced by 10.6percentage points from June 2009 to September 2019. Michigan lost about 21,800jobs in October 2019. In Michigan, the number of jobless individuals peaked in August 2018 (191,302people). From the recent trough of 191,302people (August 2018), the number of jobless people in Michigan increased by 16,352people.

10 US States With The Highest Unemployment Rates

RankUS StateUnemployment rate as of Sept. 2019
3District of Columbia5.4%
4New Mexico4.9%
6West Virginia4.7%

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