The high cost of unemployment

Released: 
January 02, 2013

Federal and state governments paid $94 billion in unemployment insurance in fiscal 2012. The amount individuals receive depends on where they live.

High unemployment is proving costly to federal and state governments. They paid out $94 billion in unemployment benefits to jobless workers in fiscal 2012. That’s a lot less than the all-time high of $150 billion in 2010 – but a lot more than the $33 billion paid out in 2007, as the recession was just starting to kick in.

Much of the increased expense came because Congress has approved benefit extensions for the long-term unemployed since the recession. With the extensions, some laid off workers could receive benefits for up to 99 weeks.

The size of the weekly payout depends on where recipients live. In 2012, benefits ranged from a high of $653 in Massachusetts to a low of $235 in Mississippi.

Check out our infographic for more on benefits by state. See “What Do Others Say?” for more perspective, then add to the discussion below. Should Congress continue to extend jobless benefits?