Social Services and Labor
California's Unemployment Insurance Program: Gaining Insight Through Comparison to Other States
October 13, 2011
Since 2008, the cost of providing unemployment insurance (UI) benefits in many states has exceeded available resources. As a result, by 2010 the UI funds in 32 states were insolvent, forcing those states to obtain loans from the federal government to continue payment of UI benefits. In this report, we conduct a comparative analysis of the UI programs in all 50 states and Washington D.C. to provide context for the Legislature in considering potential solutions to California's UI insolvency. Our analysis finds that California’s UI program pays comparatively lower weekly benefits, but pays these weekly benefits for a longer duration and to a relatively larger caseload. As a result, California has comparatively higher total program costs. To the extent the Legislature desires, California’s comparatively high cost structure could be mitigated by changing its UI eligibility and benefits duration policies. However, regardless of UI policies, California’s UI program is likely to have a higher UI cost structure than the average U.S. state as a result of its comparatively worse labor market.