States' differing levels of generosity with regard to social programs can also affect local unemployment rates, says John W. Budd, director of the Center for Human Resources and Labor Studies at the University of Minnesota. "Social nets tend to be higher in northern states than in southern states, which prevents the bottom from falling too far." Unemployment benefits, for example, tend to be smaller in southern states than in the north. Social safety nets provide people with more disposable income, allowing them to spend more and potentially provide a significant boost to the economy.
(Above: Anna-Marie Mitroi Sprenger, sponsored by the Daily Herald in Provo, Utah, competes in round three of the preliminaries of the 84th annual Scripps National Spelling Bee in National Harbor, Maryland, Wednesday, June 1, 2011.)