© Copyright 2004 by the Wyoming Department of Employment, Research & Planning


Vol. 41 No. 2    



Wyoming Unemployment Insurance Eligibility, 1993 and 2003: A Preliminary Report

by: Sherry Wen, Senior Economist

Nearly 77 percent of Wyoming workers would qualify for Unemployment Insurance benefits if they lost their jobs involuntarily, but only 20 percent of them would receive a 70 percent or higher wage replacement rate.

Unemployment Insurance (UI) is a government-sponsored earnings protection program that assists workers who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own. It plays an important role in Wyoming’s labor market. UI aids workforce development because, theoretically, it retains skilled workers in the state, who are then available for future training and employment. Almost all employers pay UI taxes. Last year 18,896 workers received UI benefits in Wyoming.

To qualify for UI benefits, an unemployed worker must meet monetary and nonmonetary eligibility criteria. Nonmonetary criteria require individuals (1) to have involuntarily separated from their employers or lost jobs through no fault of their own; (2) to be able and available for work; and (3) to be actively seeking work. Monetary criteria require unemployed workers to have earned sufficient wage credits (a certain amount of wages) prior to losing their jobs.

Wyoming retained two monetary eligibility criteria between 1993 and 2003. The first required an unemployed worker to have earned at least eight percent of the statewide annual average wage during the base period (Wyoming Employment Security Law, 2003). The minimum base period wage was $1,650 in 1993 and $2,300 in 2003. The second required that a worker’s total base period wage be at least 1.4 times his/her high quarter wages in the base period.

The research presented here only focuses on monetary criteria. Our purpose is to determine whether monetary criteria still function as they did 10 years ago. We compared data from 1993 and 2003 using Wage Records and evaluated the impact of current UI laws on the eligibility of Wyoming workers for UI benefits. This study shows the comparative operational baselines when we assume that all employees who worked in Wyoming in the second quarter of 1993 or 2003 lost their jobs and applied for UI benefits in the third quarter. We seek to determine what has happened in terms of UI eligibility. In particular, what proportion of Wyoming employees would have been able to receive UI benefits. Additionally, we explore what their benefit levels may have been and how long they would have qualified. The wage replacement ratio and UI eligibility by industry are also examined.

Employment Structure

A total of 214,402 individuals worked in Wyoming in second quarter 1993, while 232,229 worked in second quarter 2003. Table 1 shows between 1993 and 2003 there were substantial differences in growth between industries. Individuals working in Construction, one of the most seasonally volatile industries responsible for many UI claims, grew by 20.0 percent. Services, which comprise almost two-thirds of the statewide net growth, grew by 16.2 percent. Employment fell in Mining (-5.1%); Manufacturing (-8.4%); Transportation, Communications, & Public Utilities (TCPU; -5.9%); and Finance, Insurance, & Real Estate (FIRE; -2.7%). However, the percentage distributions of individual workers among industries were similar between 1993 and 2003 (up or down within 1 percentage point), except Services which gained 2.3 percentage points in 2003.

UI Eligibility

As Figure 1 illustrates, the proportion of workers who would have qualified to receive UI benefits was almost the same in 1993 (77.5%) as 2003 (76.9%). These results should be interpreted as a minimum percentage of workers who would qualify for UI. Some workers move between states and would qualify for UI based on a combined wage claim. However, combined wage claims are outside the scope of this research.

For each year, about 10 percent of Wyoming workers were new workers during second quarter and had no base period wage credit at all; approximately 13 percent could not have met at least one of the two wage requirements, for a total of nearly 23 percent who would have been ineligible for UI. Figure 2 shows the industry distribution of the 13 percent of workers who would not have been monetarily eligible because they did not meet wage credit requirements. As Figure 2 indicates, UI eligibility varies significantly among industries. For example, 25.3 percent of Agriculture workers in 1993 would not have qualified for UI benefits. In contrast, only 5.0 percent of Mining workers in the same year would not have qualified. Over the 10-year period, Mining had the most significant increase in the percentage of UI ineligible workers (from 5.0% in 1993 to 8.9% in 2003), followed by Construction (14.3% to 16.6%), and TCPU (7.2% to 8.3%). The eligibility situation improved for Agriculture (with the percentage of ineligible workers decreasing from 25.3% to 20.5%), FIRE (from 11.8% to 7.9%), and Wholesale Trade (from 9.7% to 7.3%). In general, lower paying industries such as Agriculture, Retail Trade, and Services had a larger percentage of workers who would have been monetarily ineligible for UI if they had lost jobs. However, these three industries accounted for more than three-fourths (or 77.2%) of the total growth in Wyoming workers from 1993 to 2003 and employed more than half (52.5%) of Wyoming workers in 2003. On the other hand, Mining and TCPU paid higher wages which resulted in more individuals qualifying for UI.

Potential UI Benefits Analyses

Our study shows that Wyoming had 166,044 workers (77.5%) in 1993 and 178,590 (76.9%) in 2003 who would have qualified for UI benefits if they had lost their jobs. However, UI benefits vary depending on how much a worker earned during the base period. By law, the weekly UI benefit that an eligible individual could receive is equal to four percent of his/her high quarter wage during the base period. The law limits the maximum weekly benefit to the previous year’s statewide average weekly wage multiplied by 55 percent. It changes every year along with the statewide average weekly wage. The maximum weekly benefit was $220 in 1993 and $306 in 2003. The maximum benefit an individual could receive for one year starting from the effective date of the initial claim is 30 percent of his/her base period wage, or 26 times his/her weekly benefit, whichever is less. The potential UI duration, the number of weeks an individual is able to receive UI benefits, is decided by the maximum benefit divided by the weekly benefit, up to a maximum of 26 weeks in a benefit year. Table 2 gives two examples of how base period wages determine an individual’s UI benefits.

Generally, the greater the weekly benefit amount and the longer the duration of eligibility for receiving UI benefits, the easier it is for workers to overcome the financial difficulties of unemployment. Increased benefits also afford more flexibility to attend reemployment services and look for jobs.

To facilitate comparison, we converted the 1993 benefits to a 2003 dollar value based on the consumer price index (U.S. Department of Labor, 2004). As a result, the maximum UI benefit in Wyoming was $281 per week with 26 weeks duration in 1993, and $306 per week with 26 weeks in 2003. This represents an 8.9 percent real increase over 10 years.

Figure 3 shows that approximately 40 percent of Wyoming UI eligible workers would have qualified for the maximum UI benefit in 1993 or 2003 and that eligibility would have varied by industry. In Mining, 77.0 percent of workers would have been eligible for the maximum UI benefit in 2003, while only 14.8 percent of workers in Retail Trade would have been eligible. The proportion of workers who would have qualified for the maximum UI benefit in each industry changed only slightly between 1993 and 2003, with the exception of Public Administration (up from 48.8% to 59.3%), TCPU (down from 68.4% to 60.6%), and Mining (down from 84.6% to 77.0%). Across all industries, it decreased by 1.7 percent (from 42.2% to 40.5%).

The proportion of workers eligible for the maximum UI duration fell by 5.6 percent from 1993 to 2003 (see Table 3). This decrease took place in all industries with larger decreases occurring in Mining (-7.9%), TCPU (-7.4%), and Services (-7.2%).

The potential average weekly benefit also varies greatly across industries. For example, it was $293 per week in Mining in 2003 but only $181 per week in Retail Trade. The average weekly benefit increased in all industries from 1993 to 2003, but the pace of growth was different among industries. After adjusting the 1993 amounts for inflation, the smallest growth was 6.5 percent (from $255 per week to $272 per week) in TCPU and the largest was 13.2 percent (from $239 per week to $271 per week) in Public Administration.

Wage Replacement Rate

The wage replacement rate shows the proportion of the unemployed workers’ pre-unemployment weekly wage that would have been replaced by the weekly UI benefit. A higher wage replacement rate means more stable purchasing power during unemployment. We used the average weekly wage during the second quarter of 1993 and 2003.

Only about 20 percent of Wyoming UI eligible workers would have been able to obtain a 70 percent or higher wage replacement rate had they lost jobs in third quarter 1993 or 2003 (see Figure 4). More than half of the workers in Mining in 1993 would have had less than a 30 percent wage replacement rate. This proportion decreased in 2003, but still exceeded 40 percent. Only about 20 percent of Mining workers would have had a wage replacement rate of 50 percent or higher. In contrast, more than 70 percent of workers in Retail Trade or Agriculture would have received a 50 percent or higher wage replacement and close to 30 percent would have obtained a wage replacement of 70 percent or higher. In general, the higher the weekly wage a worker earned before being laid off, the lower the wage replacement rate the individual would be able to receive.


Our study shows that in both 1993 and 2003 nearly 77 percent of Wyoming workers would qualify for UI benefits if they lost jobs involuntarily. However, only 20 percent of them would receive a 70 percent or higher wage replacement rate. In general, lower paying industries had a larger percentage of workers who would not qualify for UI benefits than higher paying industries, and workers in lower paying industries also had a much smaller chance of receiving the maximum UI benefit than those working in higher paying industries. However, individual workers with high wages generally receive lower wage replacement rates due to the limitation of the weekly benefit amount. Statewide, the proportion of workers who would have been eligible for the maximum UI benefit decreased slightly from 1993 to 2003. The proportion of workers eligible for the maximum UI duration also fell. The decrease occurred in all industries with Mining, TCPU, and Services showing the largest decreases in maximum UI duration between 1993 and 2003. These findings show that the current UI system is functioning slightly below the level it did in 1993.


U.S. Department of Labor. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2004). Consumer price indexes. Retrieved February 10, 2004 from  http://www.bls.gov/cpi

Wyoming Employment Security Law, § 27-3-102 (2003).


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