A state-by-state look at unemployment in America: 50 people share how they’re getting by — and what’s next

unemployed states 4x3
The Unemployed States of America.

Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, 55 million Americans have filed for unemployment. The stories below highlight 50 of them.

To highlight the scope of the job loss, and the human toll it's taken, Business Insider compiled stories from unemployed people in every state about what their experiences have been like.

Many are finding themselves in impossible financial circumstances as they struggle to find new jobs, make ends meet, and navigate the complicated and underfunded unemployment insurance system.

And on top of crippling debt, they've had to come to terms with the harsh reality of the virus and a pandemic that for many appears to have no end in sight.

Below is a snapshot of unemployment from every state, and the effect it's had on these people.

Birmingham, Alabama: Julie Sayers Gokhale, 29, magazine editor-in-chief
Julie Sayers-Gokhale
Julie Sayers-Gokhale.

"After the initial shock, the anxieties for my own future began to set in. It's a weird feeling when you've been in a top role and are thriving in your career, then suddenly you're nothing. You definitely feel like your value has been cut down. Although I've had a few freelance opportunities, I'm still essentially living paycheck to paycheck. Unemployment was helpful when it was $600 a week, but it's been dropped to $275 a week, which isn't enough to make ends meet."

Read Julie's story about what it's like to be unemployed in Alabama.

Anchorage, Alaska: Elisa Hitchcock, 58, event planner
Elisa Hitchcock without mask
Elisa Hitchcock.

"Work doesn't faze me. I've been a fast-food cashier, a convenience-store clerk, and a professional log-cabin builder; as an event planner, I folded napkins and set up tables. After my March 18 layoff, I knew the industry wouldn't bounce back quickly. The whole point of an event is to bring folks together. You can't do that if people are standing six feet apart. Right now I could probably get a supermarket job, filling curbside pickup orders. But I can't risk exposure to COVID-19 because I might give it to my parents."

Read Elisa's story about what it's like to be unemployed in Alaska.

Chandler, Arizona: Erik Rothchild, 53, business-development executive
Erik Rothchild
Erik Rothchild.

"As a single father, it's been very difficult since I lost my job. I'm an Army veteran and former business owner with a college degree who now can't afford my bills or seem to find a job that I am qualified for. Now that the extra $600 is gone, the state provides me with $240 per week. Only one of my three kids is still at home now, but if I can't find a decent job soon, I'm not sure if I will be able to keep my house. I am a survivor, but this has been tough."

Read Erik's story about what it's like to be unemployed in Arizona.

Little Rock, Arkansas: Stephanie Ravion, 24, healthcare customer-service representative
Stephanie Ravion
Stephanie Ravion.

"My job site closed down on March 24. Now I am struggling to take care of four children on $81 a week, which is virtually impossible. I have been searching for jobs in my field and trying to stay safe at the same time. I complete about 20 applications a week, and I only get maybe two or three responses back. My kids' school shut down, and we are all at home in constant worry and paranoia. One of my kids has special needs and he doesn't understand why he can't go to school or has to wear a mask when we go out. Being a single parent is difficult, but living in this pandemic and uncertain times plagued with financial burden makes it so much worse. I wish the Democrats and Republicans would think about us, the little guys, while they are running off to vacation."

Read Stephanie's story about what it's like to be unemployed in Arkansas.

Los Angeles, California: Kimberly Stephens, 54, entertainment-industry talent producer
Kimberly Stephens_CA
Kimberly Stephens.

"With most productions being shut down and no live events in California, I do not have any job prospects. Still, I look for jobs every day on LinkedIn, classified ads, and other professional platforms. I'm getting by financially by the grace of God and unemployment, but there are still big sacrifices. I've cut back on groceries and utility usage. My daughter is applying for fall-winter 2021 admission for medical school, but she may not be able to enter this year because I can't afford it. I've been a single parent all of her life and have supported her educational aspirations from private school to undergraduate and graduate school. I don't want her to miss this opportunity or put it off to get a job to try to help me."

Read Kimberly's story about what it's like to be unemployed in California.

Fort Collins, Colorado: Julia Bauer, 47, anthropologist
Julia Bauer
Julie Bauer.

"We are a family of four and my income was really the only one coming in. We had a few months of savings, but we weren't sure what we were going to do about money. We lived very frugally before this all hit, but we've cut out about 95% of the few extras we did allow ourselves. No new clothes — even when things wear out — and no meals out. We've banked every penny and only spend on absolute essentials. I've cut down on groceries. I've stopped going to the doctor and physical therapist, even though I have a chronic illness. I may just chuck it all, sell the house, and go back to grad school. If I'm going to lose the house anyway, I'd rather sell it first."

Read Julia's story about what it's like to be unemployed in Colorado.

Stamford, Connecticut: Thomas Michael Ormond, 61, events planner
Thomas Ormond
Thomas Ormond.

"It's just crumbling. Everyone's been let go. Before being laid off, I spent a full two weeks just canceling events, sending deposits back. This was for weddings, bar mitzvahs, anniversaries, proms, communions, confirmations, family reunions, fundraisers. All these things I do were just — boom — gone."

Read Thomas's story about what it's like to be unemployed in Connecticut.

Wilmington, Delaware: William Oliver Coursey, 31, youth care worker
William Oliver Coursey
William Oliver Coursey.

"Financially it's been a rollercoaster. I'm getting about $100 a week, so I might have to go into the savings I put away from tax time. I'm a man first; I'm a provider. It's hard when you're supposed to be that and you lose your job. Having my wife and kids here, not treating me any different, not treating me like I lost my job, it's a great feeling. They're the only reasons why I stayed sane, because if it wasn't for them I would have blamed myself."

Read William's story about what it's like to be unemployed in Delaware.

Kissimmee, Florida: Artie Dromerhauser, 31, pharmaceutical recruiter
Artie Dromerhauser
Artie Dromerhauser.

"I was laid off on June 30 while still working remotely, just two days shy of reaching seven months with my company, and I've been searching for work ever since. When we received the additional $600 unemployment benefits from the government, it was keeping us above water. Before we could take care of bills, but now it feels like the clock is ticking."

Read Artie's story about what it's like to be unemployed in Florida.

Canton, Georgia: John Valentino, 54, business owner
John Valentino
John Valentino plays music at assisted-living facilities.

"I applied for the government small-business loan seven times. As of now I haven't received a penny. Nothing. Just always 'processing.' It's been an absolute nightmare. If you call the Department of Labor, it's shut down. They just say, 'We're not taking calls right now.' And you can't leave a message. You can email them but you don't get a response."

Read John's story about what it's like to be unemployed in Georgia.

Honolulu, Hawaii: Julia Cornell, 34, bartender and teaching assistant
Julia Cornell
Julia Cornell.

"When quarantine began I was excited to catch up on sleep and art projects and just to hang out at home, which I never really did. But since then, I've developed depression and started seeing a therapist for that and other issues I'd been avoiding because I was busy. At the same time I've become unhappy not being busy."

Read Julia's story about what it's like to be unemployed in Hawaii.

Boise, Idaho: Stephanie Becerra, 21, Disney World intern
Stephanie Becerra
Stephanie Becerra.

"I don't feel comfortable applying for positions that require me to be there in person. There is so much unpredictability with this virus, you never know when or how you can become sick. I am interested in customer-service jobs that I can do safely from home or in an office where social distancing is enforced."

Read Stephanie's story about what it's like to be unemployed in Idaho.

Waukegan, Illinois: Teneia Townsend, 36, massage therapist
Teneia Townsend
Teneia Townsend.

"On top of the stress from unemployment, I have a disabled 9-year-old child at home who's been out of school. We were already in a very tough place trying to make ends meet, but to find out that I have to pay back all unemployment aid puts me and my child in a very difficult situation. This pandemic is hard already and this setback just makes it so much harder."

Read Teneia's story about what it's like to be unemployed in Illinois.

Indianapolis, Indiana: LaTrell Smith, 28, daily operations manager
LaTrell Smith
LaTrell Smith.

"It's hard for me being in sports and entertainment, and seeing no end in sight. At first, like I said, I thought it would be a couple of weeks. We're going on — what — five, six months? How long will sports not have fans? No concerts for another month? Six months? A year? Every day, you hear how many cases there are, or how cities and states are backtracking opening."

Read LaTrell's story about what it's like to be unemployed in Indiana.

Cedar Rapids, Iowa: Paul Krueger, 61, carpenter
Paul Krueger
Paul Krueger.

"My business came to a full stop, except for paying the bills. If I don't get consistent work in the near future, I can only make it through September, maybe October, before I need to pull the plug. It's a scary situation. It really is. I've been self-employed most of my life, and I don't know what I'll do if my business can't continue. I'm 61. It'll be hard to find a company that's going to want to hire me for a decent wage."

Read Paul's story about what it's like to be unemployed in Iowa.

Kansas City, Kansas: Stacie Sulzen, 51, bartender
KS_FINAL
Stacie Sulzen.

"The first couple weeks it was nice to sleep in and know that no one was going to call me into work. Then it got to the point where I was ready for the vacation to be over and get back to work. Food was running out; money was running out. It took about three months to start getting unemployment."

Read Stacie's story about what it's like to be unemployed in Kansas.

Danville, Kentucky: Reuben Harness, 50, business-development director
KY_FINAL
Reuben Harness.

"I wasn't shocked at all. I was expecting it for quite some time, hoping and praying that it wouldn't happen. But realistically I knew it was coming. When you go from full time to part time, you start to see red flags. I considered leaving before I was let go, but there aren't a lot of jobs out there that were hiring for the type of work that I do. If something did pop up that I felt comfortable applying for, I would have."

Read Reuben's story about what it's like to be unemployed in Kentucky.

Shreveport, Louisiana: Ebony Mitchell, 29, program assistant
Ebony Mitchell
Ebony Mitchell.

"My biggest worry is that the pandemic won't get under control and this will be the new normal. I have various underlying health conditions, so I'm limited in the jobs I can take on. The hardest part of all of this is the constant fear and uncertainty. Contrary to popular belief, people would like to work and earn their wages. It's very hard to always worry about your health, along with your finances."

Read Ebony's story about what it's like to be unemployed in Louisiana.

Whitefield, Maine: Penny Moshier, 43, store manager
Penny Moshier
Penny Moshier.

"Now that unemployment has been cut to $346 a week, I can barely contribute to both the household bills and the cost of food. I've always been someone who has contributed. Thankfully, my two children are grown and on their own and I'm married, so there is another income coming in. Honestly, I've been grateful for the rest. It has been about a decade since I've stopped to think about myself."

Read Penny's story about what it's like to be unemployed in Maine.

Bethesda, Maryland: Annika Cowles, 22, actress and barista
AnnikaCowles (1)
Annika Cowles.

"It's really tough in the theater industry, too, since there are so many people other than the actors. It's our designers, directors, and people who work in the box office. No one wants to get sick, and I don't see us going back anytime soon."

Read Annika's story about what it's like to be unemployed in Maryland.

Boston, Massachusetts: Kally Lavoie, 27, public-relations manager
Kally Lavoie
Kally Lavoie.

"My mental health has suffered greatly. I'm worried about my mental and physical health. I'm also concerned about finding another job, whether or not the PR sector will rebound in the city, and returning to Boston."

Read Kally's story about what it's like to be unemployed in Massachusetts.

Ann Arbor, Michigan: Erin Zettell, 26, registered dietitian
Erin Zettell
Erin Zettell.

"I was on furlough for three months and didn't hear a single thing from my employer. I got more emails from my local gas station. My colleagues and I all were quite frustrated, feeling like we were lost without any direction. Nobody reached out to see how we were doing. It just confirmed how undervalued and undersupported I felt as a young female professional."

Read Erin's story about what it's like to be unemployed in Michigan.

Minneapolis, Minnesota: Miles Gordon Jamison, 22, security guard
MilesJamison2_CreditTylerCroat (1)
Miles Jamison.

"I'm looking for work, but I'm always getting misgendered, and I've been harassed at work before, so I'm really just trying to find a job where I don't have to deal with that. Sometimes it seems like I'm asking for too much, but I'm not. I know I'm not."

Read Miles's story about what it's like to be unemployed in Minnesota.

Hattiesburg, Mississippi: Louis Bethley, 39, restaurant server
Louis Bethley
Louis Bethley.

"Before COVID-19 came, I was able to take care of my family. I had to look for a job because Applebee's shut down for legitimate reasons, but I still had to accept that I didn't have a job and they didn't have anywhere for me to go. I was back on my own trying to survive."

Read Louis's story about what it's like to be unemployed in Mississippi.

Kansas City, Missouri: Paula Jan Beasley, 59, assistant restaurant manager
PJ Beasley 090320 rs 101F
P.J. Beasley

"I'd just started a new job, and two weeks in I was let go due to the virus. I didn't qualify for unemployment or any assistance under the CARES Act, so I'm getting by thanks to friends, family, prayers, and tears. This has been a very depressing and humiliating time for me, not being able to pay for mental-health care or any other medical issues. My biggest worry is that I won't be able to find employment where it's safe to work, as I will turn 60 in the next few months."

Read Paula's story about what it's like to be unemployed in Missouri.

Billings, Montana: Becca DeMeyer, 25, yoga teacher and painter
Becca DeMeyer
Becca DeMeyer.

"Between my income from painting and being a caretaker for my elderly neighbor, along with my partner, Ty, receiving unemployment, we're getting along fine. I think this time is actually meant for creative minds. It's pushing us to open our minds to new perspectives and think resourcefully. I've begun looking into artist grants, contemplating continuing my education, expanding my skill sets, and reaching out more often to more people I care about."

Read Becca's story about what it's like to be unemployed in Montana.

Adams, Nebraska: Marty Svoboda, 55, entrepreneur
Marty Svoboda
Marty Svoboda.

"In many ways this situation is very scary. It's different from when I was an entrepreneur back in the early 2000s. Now I have a wife and two kids to worry about. I can't just pack up and go to the next venture, and we simply can't survive on $173 unemployment checks each week. Receiving help from family doesn't make you feel good either. I need to get back to work."

Read Marty's story about what it's like to be unemployed in Nebraska.

Las Vegas, Nevada: Lorenzo Steele, 36, specialty line cook
Lorenzo Steele
Lorenzo Steele.

"I was working full time for a casino in Las Vegas for the past 11 months, and had been furloughed up until May, when we were called back for sessions on training and testing before the casino reopened. I attended every session until I became ill about a week before reopening, which caused me to be terminated because I violated the attendance policy by trying to get a COVID-19 test. They treated me like I was nobody, and didn't even give me time to take the steps to save my job, and now my unemployment benefits are being held up because of it. I blame myself for getting sick and trying to do the right thing, which was protecting myself from other people getting sick. I found out later that I did not have the virus anyway."

Read Lorenzo's story about what it's like to be unemployed in Nevada.

Pelham, New Hampshire: Gloria Castiglione, 49, cleaning business owner
Gloria Castiglione
Gloria Castiglione.

"Within a two-week span in March, I went from having the busiest week of my career to people saying 'I think we're going to put it on pause.' As a self-employed person, I honestly didn't think I was eligible for unemployment. I filed in mid-April, and when I got through I said, 'I haven't been working since March 13. Can you guys help me out?'"

Read Gloria's story about what it's like to be unemployed in New Hampshire.

Jefferson, New Jersey: Kristen Urban, 26, human-resources administrator
Kristen_Urban.JPG
Kristen Urban.

"I am worried about what I am going to do once my unemployment runs out in October. There is so much uncertainty about what the federal government is going to do about unemployment and whether or not it will be extended throughout the rest of the year."

Read Kristen's story about what it's like to be unemployed in New Jersey.

Albuquerque, New Mexico: Rachel Veal, 40, set dresser
rachel.veal (1)
Rachel Veal.

"March 13 was our last day. Earlier that week we heard talk of our show going on hiatus for two weeks to see what happened with the coronavirus. We packed up as best we could, not knowing if we'd be back in two weeks, or ever. Within those two weeks we started seeing the world shut down more and more, and realized we wouldn't be going back anytime soon."

Read Rachel's story about what it's like to be unemployed in New Mexico.

Buffalo, New York: Jay Fairbrother, 38, accountant
Jay Fairbrother
Jay Fairbrother.

"While I think accounting probably took less of a hit than some other career paths, I have been surprised at how hard job searching has been thus far. I've never been unemployed this long or had so few job prospects. That, combined with the greater uncertainty in the world, has made the whole situation very hard."

Read Jay's story about what it's like to be unemployed in New York.

Creedmoor, North Carolina: Penny Carpenter, 47, customer-service representative
Penny Carpenter_NC.JPG
Penny Carpenter.

"After being at my job for almost 22 years, I felt part of my identity was gone. I am struggling to find out what I really want to do going forward. To be sent home so unappreciated after dedicating so many years to my job, I have really struggled with the blow to my self-esteem. The uncertainty of the future is overwhelming at times."

Read Penny's story about what it's like to be unemployed in North Carolina.

Fargo, North Dakota: Serena Dunn, 24, payroll and office coordinator
ND_FINAL
Serena Dunn.

"I'm going to try to ride this out as long as possible. I want to go back to work for my employer and I'm comfortable going back, even if that means wearing masks and social distancing. I don't have a plan if they don't bring me back from furlough. Not knowing when this will end is hard, but I'm optimistic that everything will work out. I haven't been impacted too negatively, and since I have no dependents, it's easier for me to be confident that I'll bounce back from this."

Read Serena's story about what it's like to be unemployed in North Dakota.

Old Washington, Ohio: Beatrice Johnson, 55, help-desk coordinator
Beatrice Johnson
Beatrice Johnson.

"My job prospects in Old Washington, Ohio, are nonexistent. Unless I want to work at a potato-chip plant or in fast food or retail, there is nothing for me. I worked hard to get my MBA and I want to be able to utilize my education to the fullest extent."

Read Beatrice's story about what it's like to be unemployed in Ohio.

Collinsville, Oklahoma: Amanda Stephenson, 52, small-business owner
Amanda Stephenson_OK
Amanda Stephenson.

"I honestly thought maybe there would be a positive side of all this. I think every generation has had a trial and comes out better. I thought that maybe we'd all be kinder, less entitled, and less self-absorbed. But instead it seems like everyone is nastier, more judgmental, and more ready to attack others."

Read Amanda's story about what it's like to be unemployed in Oklahoma.

Portland, Oregon: Alyssa Meritt, 44, vice president of professional services
Alyssa Meritt
Alyssa Meritt.

"While I've been fortunate during the pandemic, we've started to cut back and dip into savings. I reconnected with a former coworker to work on a startup idea. Even if it goes nowhere, collaborating and learning keeps my spirits up. It's one way I can control my destiny."

Read Alyssa's story about what it's like to be unemployed in Oregon.

Jefferson Township, Pennsylvania: Kristen Smith-Page, 38, wellness coordinator
Kristen Smith-Page
Kristen Smith-Page.

"This pandemic will force me to make major life decisions, such as allowing my daughter to stay with her father full time and giving up my custody since it'd be really difficult for her to change school districts. This is devastating and heartbreaking for me as a mother."

Read Kristen's story about what it's like to be unemployed in Pennsylvania.

Warwick, Rhode Island: Kara Theriault, 55, visitors service manager
Kara Theriault LinkedIn photo
Kara Theriault.

"I was furloughed April 3 from my job as visitors services manager at the Providence Warwick Convention and Visitors Bureau, and laid off on July 20. It didn't come as a surprise to me, but at the same time it stung. I won't sugarcoat it. I loved working with the CVB. Even when you know it's coming, and when you know it's out of your control and it's a pandemic, it's really hard. I'd never been unemployed before in my life. I started washing dishes when I was 13. You feel defeated. What did I do wrong? Could I have tried harder?"

Read Kara's story about what it's like to be unemployed in Rhode Island.

Florence, South Carolina: Tyrone Baker, 46, service supervisor
Tyrone Baker
Tyrone Baker.

"I'm struggling badly financially. I have no money, no job, barely any food, and no gas money to find work. I lost my health insurance, which I relied upon to help manage my depression. Without prescription coverage, the cost of a single medication alone has jumped from $10 per month to $307."

Read Tyrone's story about what it's like to be unemployed in South Carolina.

Brookings, South Dakota: Julia Eberhart, 40, marketing manager
Julia Eberhart
Julia Eberhart.

"In May they decided to lay off more than 100 employees. I was one of them. On May 13, after eight weeks of remote work, I was informed via video conference that my job was no longer needed. Within the hour all of my access was terminated."

Read Julia's story about what it's like to be unemployed in South Dakota.

Nashville, Tennessee: Shauna Webb Scott, 32, IT business analyst
Shauna Webb Scott
Shauna Webb Scott.

"I found out I was pregnant three weeks prior to losing my position as an IT business analyst. It's been stressful dealing with pregnancy and losing my sense of purpose along the way. I also own a small business doing wedding coordination and planning, and lost most of my clients due to wedding cancellations. My biggest worry is that my business will never rebound, and I won't be as marketable as a new mom and after having a large employment gap for nine months. I've lost income that I'll never get back, and being pregnant has added to the stress and anxiety of trying to stay safe while job seeking."

Read Shauna's story about what it's like to be unemployed in Tennessee.

Fort Worth, Texas: Callie Price, 30, marketing specialist
Callie Price
Callie Price.

"I became very stressed, anxious, and my depression worsened. My oldest son was going to be starting kindergarten in August, and I had no idea how or if I was going to find a job. With schools being closed, I wondered how I was going to juggle being a teacher and trying to pursue a career."

Read Callie's story about what it's like to be unemployed in Texas.

Salt Lake City, Utah: Faye Barnhurst, 22, concert-booking agent
Faye Barnhurst Allanah Beazley.JPG
Faye Barnhurst.

"We started to realize in the middle of March that we were going to have to shut down completely. It all escalated so fast. Shows and tours were getting canceled one after another, and venues were closing. By the time I applied for unemployment benefits, the extra $600 a week was no longer available. I was approved for $100 a week."

Read Faye's story about what it's like to be unemployed in Utah.

Manchester, Vermont: Ericca Budick, 45, administrative assistant
Ericca Budick.
Ericca Budick.

"Work was my identity, my purpose. Without that, I found myself quickly spiraling into a serious depression — up half the night, sleeping half the day, doing next to nothing all day long. I've never felt so hopeless in all my life."

Read Ericca's story about what it's like to be unemployed in Vermont.

Arlington, Virginia: Eric Witiw, 25, recent grad
EricWitiw_VA
Eric Witiw.

"I've had some interviews, but it's moving very slow. I'm honestly just worried that I won't get a job in my field. I might not be right, but it feels like jobs are almost planning for another possible year of lockdown when they're hiring someone with my level of experience."

Read Eric's story about what it's like to be unemployed in Virginia.

Seattle, Washington: Cameron Workman, 29, barista
CameronWorkman_WA
Cameron Workman.

"Life has been difficult in a lot of ways, and good in some. The difficult parts involve having no idea what happens next, dealing with the complete lack of leadership and communication from elected officials, both national and local. I have no idea, especially right now as the expanded benefits have been terminated, how I'm going to get through the next month, what the month after this is going to look like, if I'm ever going to return to work again."

Read Cameron's story about what it's like to be unemployed in Washington.

Charleston, West Virginia: Brandon Di Gregorio, 26, insurance agent
Brandon Di Gregorio
Brandon Di Gregorio.

"I was under the impression this would be at most a month or two. But here I am five months later, still living at home. I've never really lived with my parents for this long as an adult. I'm really happy my mom got a treadmill to put in the basement. Whenever you start to feel that existential dread, you can just run it off."

Read Brandon's story about what it's like to be unemployed in West Virginia.

Kenosha, Wisconsin: Nicholas J. Laurenzi, 37, shift manager
Nicholas J. Laurenzi
Nicholas J. Laurenzi.

"When the state-wide lockdown came into effect, our company firmly proclaimed they were an essential business and told us to stay open. My hours were initially cut way down, but because of the volume of orders we were getting, I ended up working close to what was normal. Then around the end of the first week of the stay-at-home order, city police came through and told us that we were in violation and had to completely close up."

Read Nicholas's story about what it's like to be unemployed in Wisconsin.

Laramie, Wyoming: Jordan Crane, 25, civil engineer
Jordan Crane
Jordan Crane.

"Back in February, I was interviewed for an entry-level civil-engineering job. They kept saying, 'Wait until April; wait until May; wait until June,' and then finally they were like, 'Yeah, we can't hire you.'  It was really frustrating. Mostly I just really want stability in my life, and it's hard to feel stable without a good job."

Read Jordan's story about what it's like to be unemployed in Wyoming.

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