Arizona Needs to Address Unemployment Compensation to Ensure Families are Protected Before the Next Recession

December 9, 2019

Arizona Needs to Address Unemployment Compensation

to Ensure Families are Protected Before the Next Recession

Dave Wells, Ph.D., Research Director

Key Findings

  • Arizona is the only state where a person working 25 hours per week earning $12 per hour who loses her job through no fault of her own does not qualify for unemployment insurance benefits.
  • Arizona’s unemployment benefit cap is one of the lowest in the United States on par with Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi, having remained unchanged since 2004.
  • Arizona’s unemployment insurance program is woefully unprepared for the next recession, putting individuals and families with children at risk of housing and food insecurity and marital breakdown.


Arizona combines the hardest to access unemployment benefits in the country with a very low cap on benefits leaving Arizona families insufficiently protected from the next recession.  This contributes to housing and food insecurity, undermines marriages, and places children at risk, which can become catastrophic in an economic downturn. Households most likely to experience unemployment are below the 40th percentile in income and have  insufficient savings to survive a significant loss of income without substantial risk to children.

Benefits are harder to access in Arizona than any other state. Arizona is the only state in the country where a worker who loses a 25-hour per week $12 an hour  job does not qualify for unemployment benefits.  Weekly benefits are capped at $240 for those that qualify for support. So a worker who loses a job that paid the average weekly wage of $980 receives only one-quarter of her former wages in weekly unemployment benefits. In comparison,  other Southwestern states, including Texas, pay half of lost wages.  Arizona should amend its program to match the other Southwestern states.




Benefits — Arizona should increase the cap on unemployment benefits to $490 per week, one half of the average weekly wage of the prior calendar year, and adjust this amount annually. Arizona should introduce a dependent allowance of $25 per week per dependent with a cap of $50 per week.

Accessibility — Arizona should change the minimum earnings required to qualify for benefits from earning in a calendar quarter 390 hours times minimum wage (the highest amount in the country) to 260 hours times minimum wage ($3,120 next year) OR alternatively $7,000 over the statutory four-quarter base period (as a minimum annual amount).

Remove job acceptance requirement —Arizona’s legislature should follow the recommendation of the federal government and remove the potentially unlawful portion of Chapter 340 (SB1398), of the 53rd Legislative Session (2018), so that those collecting unemployment benefits are no longer required to take jobs that pose significant challenges in terms of travel, hours, or pay level, in order to preserve their rights to unemployment insurance benefits.