Outlook For The Unemployed In Tennessee

In Some States, Conditions Are More Favorable For Those Who Are Out Of Work Than In Others. Tennessee Ranks As The 18th Worst Place To Be Unemployed.  

Tennessee Capitol Building in Nashville

Photo: Tennessee State Route 261 at the Tennessee-Kentucky state line in Macon County, Tennessee.

Photo Credit: Brian Stansberry / CC

Published July 20, 2021

By Samuel Stebbins [24/7 Wall St. via The Center Square] –

The COVID-19 pandemic set off an economic crisis that pushed the U.S. unemployment rate to levels that rivaled the highs of the Great Depression. Fortunately, the recovery has been relatively rapid, and weekly initial unemployment claims in the United States have been below half a million since early May 2021. The last time they were below that threshold was in March 2020, when President Donald Trump declared a state of emergency for COVID-19.

Whether brought about by a pandemic or not, unemployment is never desirable. However, in some states, conditions are more favorable for those who are out of work than in others. The quality of the labor market and strength of the social safety net, as well as the current speed of labor market recovery, are all factors that vary from state to state.

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Based on an index of these factors, Tennessee ranks as the 18th worst place to be unemployed. Due in part to expanded eligibility during the pandemic, the share of the unemployed population receiving benefits in Tennessee increased from 14.0% in 2019 to 56.6% in 2020. Meanwhile, the national 2020 recipiency rate stands at 77.6%, up from 27.7% the previous year. It is important to note that in some states, perhaps also due to expanded eligibility, the average number of people who received UI benefits in 2020 exceeds the average number of people who were unemployed over the course of the year.

The average weekly unemployment benefit payout in Tennessee — not including the additional federal benefits that were added during the pandemic — totaled $218 in 2020, enough to cover 32.7% of the average weekly working wage in the state. For context, the average payout nationwide was $321 per week in 2020, or 38.3% of the average weekly wage.

Over the course of the past year, the job market has been gaining momentum and overall employment nationwide climbed 13.4% between April 2020 and April 2021. In Tennessee, job gains were stronger, as overall employment increased by 17.9% over the same period. Currently, the monthly jobless rate in Tennessee stands at 5.0%, slightly lower than the April 2021 national unemployment rate of 6.1%.

The index used to create this ranking incorporates four measures: unemployment benefit recipiency (the share of unemployed receiving UI), average weekly unemployment payments as a share of average wages, one-year employment growth, and the April unemployment rate. All data used in this ranking is from the U.S. Department of Labor. 

These are the best and worst states to be unemployed:

RankStateAvg. share of employed pop. with unemployment benefits; 2020 (%)Avg. weekly benefit payoutApril 2021 unemployment (%)1-yr. employment growth (%)
8New Hampshire66.22742.819.2
13North Dakota76.64444.23.1
22South Dakota42.43222.87.2
28Rhode Island79.33276.312.1
29South Carolina73.12465.08.5
31West Virginia68.72725.815.6
34New York104.13448.217.4
36New Jersey71.64097.59.5
41North Carolina44.02345.017.4
44New Mexico72.03188.27.2
Source: 24/7 Wall St.
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About the Author:

Samuel Stebbins is the assistant managing editor for 24/7 Wall St. and is based in New York City. He has been a data journalist since 2015, primarily covering news and finance.

His articles have been published on a number of platforms, including HuffPost, MarketWatch, MSN, USA Today, and Yahoo Finance. His work has also been cited by The Boston Globe, CBS News, Chicago Tribune, Fox News, The Guardian, NBC’s Today, PBS NewsHour, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and multiple academic texts. 

One thought on “Outlook For The Unemployed In Tennessee

  • July 20, 2021 at 3:54 pm

    TN and about 22 other states cut off State UE to force people back to work who lived off those Stimulus checks. I did the math for the purposed SS 5% raise. It still won’t cover the COLA for many, not at the rate Groceries, gas, utilities, Property taxes are going up. Little less on these necessities like a $1,000 to get a dead tree cut down, before it falls on your house. More if stump is removed. US NAVY has Hiring signs out at our local base, would you work for $1,700 a month as a E1? $11 for a burger flipper? When sitting home drawing a Stimulus check because you have a child is closer to $25 with all the other Freebies that go with it? BTW hubby’s first USN check after taxes, SS, Medicare was $38.00 twice a month back in 1958.


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