Blog Posts > Indexing Unemployment Benefits Would Harm Small, Rural Counties in West Virginia
February 27, 2024

Indexing Unemployment Benefits Would Harm Small, Rural Counties in West Virginia


During the 2024 legislative session, the West Virginia Senate introduced bills that would make major changes to the state’s unemployment insurance system, to the detriment of workers. These changes include dramatically reducing the number of weeks of unemployment benefits available to the state’s unemployed workers. SB 840, would tie the maximum weeks of eligibility to the statewide unemployment rate via a practice known as indexing, while both SB 840 and SB 841 place a hard cap on weekly benefits. Tying weeks of eligibility to the statewide unemployment rate is misguided, failing to account for regional variations in the economy and industries. As such, it would disproportionately harm the state’s smaller, more rural counties, while the hard cap on benefits would result in a reduction in weekly benefits for roughly half of West Virginia workers.

Read the full fact sheet.

Indexing Unemployment Benefits to the Statewide Unemployment Rate Ignores Regional Variations in the Economy

SB 840 would cut the number of weeks workers are eligible for unemployment benefits from the current level of 26 weeks to as little as 12 weeks, with the number of weeks available varying based on the statewide average unemployment rate, calculated via a practice known as indexing.

At the county level, reducing weeks of eligibility would create significant hardship for workers in rural parts of the state that tend to have much higher rates of unemployment than the state average. For example, while the statewide unemployment rate averaged 6.2 percent from 2012-2021, individual county unemployment rates averaged as high as 11.6 percent in Calhoun County. Indeed, 36 out of 55 counties had average unemployment rates above the state average (Figure 1). In counties undergoing disruptive economic shifts away from mining and manufacturing, indexing would be especially harmful. An unemployed worker in Jefferson County, which averaged an unemployment rate of 4.0 percent over the last decade, enjoys vastly different economic opportunities than an unemployed worker in Calhoun County, with its 11.6 percent average unemployment rate.

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