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SNAP Over-the-Year Participation Down More than 2 Million People in January 2017, the Lowest Level in Six Years

Trends Factors: Economic Improvement Combined with Jobless Worker Cutoffs and Weak Energy Sector

January 2017 Participation Tables (pdf)

SNAP participation decreased to its lowest monthly level since September 2010, totaling 42,715,121 persons in January 2017, a drop of 248,930 persons, compared with December 2016, and a drop of 2,137,226 persons, compared with January 2016.

The over-the-year downward SNAP participation trend in January 2017 likely reflects a mix of factors. On the one hand, improved economic conditions have lessened financial need among some households. On the other, harsh time limits have pushed certain jobless adults off the rolls. SNAP matters for many Americans across the country as they struggle against problems of underemployment and stagnant wages, particularly in states experiencing sharp job losses in the energy sector.

State Trends

SNAP participation declined between January 2016 and January 2017 in 42 states and the District of Columbia, mostly reflecting improved economic conditions, but in some states, the three-month time limit on SNAP benefits for certain jobless adults also likely contributed to steep participation declines. The ten states with the sharpest over-the-year declines in SNAP participation either had no waivers to preserve SNAP eligibility for unemployed adults in areas with insufficient jobs (Florida, Arkansas, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, and Kansas) or had only partial area waivers of the time limit (Georgia, Washington, Idaho, and Maryland).

In the eight states registering flat participation or over-the-year increases in SNAP participation in January 2017, likely factors include economic need exacerbated by a weak energy sector, and/or progress in closing SNAP participation gaps. Seven of the thirteen states that either registered over-the year- increases or the smallest over-the-year decreases in SNAP participation in January 2017 (Louisiana, Texas, Wyoming, Oklahoma, North Dakota, New Mexico, and Pennsylvania) rank among the ten states with the biggest job losses in oil and gas rigs as a share of total employment. Read the full Brookings Institution analysis here.