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Unemployment Benefits

Many individuals eventually find themselves in the unfortunate situation of unemployment.  Some know it’s coming months in advance, while others may receive this shocking news when they walk in the door at work one morning.  For those of you who are recently unemployed, you may be eligible to receive some relief to help ease the troubles while you are searching for your next job.  Not only do unemployment benefits help individuals, but they also help the community and economy as a whole.  In fact, the unemployment insurance program was instituted in response to the Great Depression in order to encourage spending and help the poor economy.  Today, unemployment benefits still exist to support economic stability, in addition to helping individuals and families.  Here is some information about unemployment benefits, eligibility, how to apply for unemployment benefits, what you will receive and how to find a new job:

What are unemployment benefits?

According to the U.S. Department of Labor Employment & Training Administration, unemployment benefits, also called unemployment insurance payments, are “intended to provide temporary financial assistance to unemployed workers who meet the requirements of State law.”  The funding for this financial assistance is provided by employers who pay state and federal taxes.  Unemployment insurance is given to individuals who are unemployed under no fault of their own.  This may include individuals who:

  • were laid off due to lack of work
  • are still working but the employer reduced their hours
  • were fired without work-related misconduct
  • quit their job for a good, well-documented, work-related cause (for example, unsafe working conditions forced you to leave a job you otherwise wanted to keep)
  • quit their job for a medical reason
  • quit their job to move with their husband, wife or military spouse

In addition, recipients of unemployment benefits must be ready, willing and able to to work, and they must be actively searching for a new job.

Am I eligible for unemployment benefits?

Your eligibility for unemployment insurance depends on your state laws.  There are two major eligibility requirements:

  • 1. You must have been earning wages for a certain period of time prior to filing for unemployment insurance.  This period of time is called the “base period” and its length is determined by the state.
  • 2.  According to state law, you must be considered unemployed through no fault of your own.

Eligibility for unemployment benefits varies by state.  For example, to receive Texas unemployment benefits, you are required to register for work at a state employment service office.  Registering for work is a separate step from applying for benefits and if you do not do this, you will not remain eligible for unemployment insurance benefits in the state of Texas.  This is not necessary in many other states.

Each state also has different monetary eligibility requirements as well.  For example, New York unemployment benefits require that an individual was paid at least $1600 in one of the calendar quarters within his or her base period.  However, California unemployment insurance requires that an individual either (1) earn at least $1300 in the highest quarter of the base period, or (2) earn at least $900 in the highest quarter with a total base period earnings of at least 1.25 times the high quarter earnings.  Florida unemployment benefits require that an individual earn at least $3,400 total wages in the base period.  Each state has its own requirements for eligibility, so you should find your state’s Web site by visiting Career One Stop to get more information.

How do I apply for unemployment benefits?

To apply for unemployment benefits, you should contact the State Unemployment Insurance agency for your state.  In most states, you can file a claim for unemployment insurance over the Internet or by telephone.  However, in some states such as West Virginia, you must file for unemployment by visiting an agency in person.  You should file a claim within the first week that you become unemployed.  When you apply for unemployment benefits, you may need to be prepared with some of the following information: social security number, state driver’s license, your home mailing address and telephone number, contact info for previous employers, records showing wages earned or any pension or Social Security payments received, etc.  Visit Career One Stop for more state-specific information on state unemployment insurance.  Here are some links to individual state Web sites:

What will I receive?

As a recipient of unemployment insurance, you will receive a check in the mail on a weekly basis, or you may also have the option to receive your unemployment checks through direct deposit.  Usually, the amount you receive is determined by a percentage of the earnings you received during your base period.  Unlike other benefit programs such as welfare, unemployment insurance is based solely on previous earnings.  In order to continue receiving unemployment benefits, you will have to continuously file weekly or biweekly claims, as well as answer questions to prove that you are still eligible to receive unemployment insurance benefits.  In addition, you will need to show the unemployment insurance agency that you are continuously looking for full-time employment.  In general, unemployment benefits can be paid for a maximum of 26 weeks, however this may vary by state.

How do I find work?

You must be actively searching for a new job in order to receive unemployment benefits.  When looking for a job, you will want to take advantage of as many resources as possible.  One of the best ways to find a job is to use an Internet job database, such as this one at where you can conduct a job search based on location, industry or specific keywords.  In addition, using a job site like allows you to post your resume online and receive daily or weekly job alerts through email.

Also, do not forget about the value of networking.  Finally, you may want to use your previous experience to your advantage and find a new job in a similar industry.  However, if you weren’t too thrilled about your last job, you might want to look into your other options as well.  Take a look at the different types of jobs available in the following industries:

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55 Responses for "Unemployment Benefits"

Julie March 6th, 2009 at 12:48 pm 1

I need some help, i was laid off in July 2008 and started law school in august. i was not fired because i went to school, but i want to file for unemployment now, since i worked during the base period they use to calculate your benefits (10/07-9/08) can i still file? is there a cut off period after you lose your job to file unemployment? I live in NJ

Andrew March 25th, 2009 at 10:23 am 2

Julie: You might be out of luck with collecting unemployment because you waited too long to apply. Unemployment is based on your wage history over the last x number of months. I don’t know about NJ as far as what their criteria is, but in PA (where I live) it’s the last 5 quarters of employment (15 months) of employment, and what the highest amount of these quarters was. That’s what determines what you get for unemployment. Unless you’ve worked recently, you may not be able to collect. I’ts important to file IMMEDIATELY after a lay off, can’t say that enough times.

unemployment benefits April 4th, 2009 at 9:01 pm 3

Julie – unemployment eligibility requirements differ from state to state, and like Andrew said, often use a window of eligibility. You should apply anyway, because some states requirements are somewhat fluid at this point, with the introduction of new federal unemployment aid to the states.

pete larita June 26th, 2009 at 1:18 pm 4

Wanting to know if i can have my unemployment benefits put into a direct deposit account, if so how do i go about settintg it up. Thanks

That all depends Petey. What state do you live in?

gary July 3rd, 2009 at 1:15 pm 6

I live in Ohio. I took an early retirement in 2006 from a company that was going to close in a year. I have been working for a new company for 2 years. I just got a hopefully, temporary lay-off. My question is, can I receive unemployment benefits and my pension?

guest December 4th, 2009 at 8:56 pm 7

A couple of things for those in CA (I am an insider):

1. The interviewers do NOT automatically believe the claimant is lying. We do understand that Employers lie too as they have an interest in lying to us. The employer pays into unemployment, it does NOT come out of your checks.

2. If you are collecting unemployment and are engaging in self-employment or have a part time job, you MUST report your wages as you EARN them, not as they are paid.

-we will find out you are working and we will penalize you for it, it is fraud. We also know if you are working in other states.

3. If you do not have childcare, you do not qualify for benefits.

4. If you are caring for a relative full time, during your normal working hours for your occupation, you do not qualify for benefits.

5. If you are going to school during your normal working hours, you do not qualify for benefits. We do find out if you are in school.

6. We find out about everything you do, whether it’s anonymous tips from people that know you, from other states, from your employer or former employers etc.

7. Employers in CA can fire you for any reason (except those protected under Civil Rights Act) or no reason. They do NOT have to give you a reason. The majority of the time, the ER’s are the ones holding up your benefits.

8. You are more likely to get benefits if you get fired than if you quit.

9. We know when you go on Disability, you cannot collect both.

10. It is not a good idea to miss your interview if you have one! You will most likely be disqualified. They do not have to leave you a message to have you call back.

It is your responsibility to make sure you are available.

-it is your responsibility to make sure your information is correct, that you’re reporting correctly, etc. Ignorance is not an excuse when it comes to the law and government money. There is literature that we mail out and there is PLENTY of literature online.

11. If you have a question during your interview, wait until the interviewer is done. **Many interviewers are jaded and impatient, it is not your fault, we deal with many MANY people that do committ fraud and should not be entitled to benefits. So it makes it harder for us to sympathize with those of you that are legitimately out of jobs.

12. The EDD staff do their jobs to the best of their ability, they have deadlines and standards of their own that are set by the Federal Government. They do not make the rules, they just follow them. They do not disqualify arbitrarily, we are trained to follow the letter of the law (the California Unemployment Insurance Code). If you dont’ like it WRITE TO CONGRESS.

Rob January 29th, 2010 at 9:03 pm 8

Concerning CA unemployment benefits:

Can a Veteran who is receiving retirement pension AND VA disability benefits/check monthly, receive CA unemployment benefits if they have worked for their civilian employer for the past 15 months. if they are laid off due to reduction in force because of the economy?

I am assuming one can not collect all three simultaneously.

Any insight is appreciated.

Can a Veteran who is receiving retirement pension AND VA disability benefits/check monthly, receive CA unemployment benefits if they have worked for their civilian employer for the past 15 months. if they are laid off due to reduction in force because of the economy?

I am assuming one can not collect all three simultaneously.

Any insight is appreciated.

Jack July 7th, 2010 at 7:20 pm 10

KY unemployment.

I am currently on FMLA. My doctor has taken me off work for pain in both elbows and wrists. My doctor has advised my employer that I cannot do repetitive that movements that employs the use of my wrists and elbows. My employer states they have no jobs for me if I have these restrictions. If I quit before they fire me can I draw unemployment.

Steph July 13th, 2010 at 1:14 pm 11

I was fired on the way to work- I got a call on my cell, picked it up, and the boss said “it’s not working out”

This was the first job I was ever asked to leave—I was not under any warnings, nor, did I do anything against policy-

It was a privately owned business, and we just didn’t mesh well-

ANYWAY, I tried to file unemployment (I am in NY) And they have no record of the business–

I am thinking he never had the correct paperwork?

I called unemployment, and I was told it might take a few MONTHS! I was living paycheck to paycheck before—now, it has been over a month, and I still have nothing–I have been job searching every day-

When I asked what I was supposed to do? (My bills are piling up–afraid I will be cut off from my utilities, etc–) I was told they have to give the employer the benefit of the doubt-

I know this guy was doing some unscrupulous things–people working 12 hour shifts, no breaks–someone else was scheduled 7 days a week–

Due to previous salary, I know I can’t get state assistance–I am so pissed, and have no where to turn—

I was told I could file a complaint and the guy could get fined–but that wouldn’t do me any good—that won’t put food on the table, or keep my utilitites on.

Nowadays, you must apply online for everyplace–if my Internet service is cut off—what will I do?

Library has a 15 minute limit—

Why does this guy get benefit of doubt, and I get nothing.

I am so frustrated—

La bop September 9th, 2010 at 3:29 pm 12

California unemployment is designed to kick people off for stupid reasons

I live and work in Florida and have not been paid for 6 weeks. Prior to this, I wasn’t paid for 4-6 weeks at a time, over the last year and 1/2. Many of us have had utilities turned off, repossessions and evictions. We are now down to a skeletan crew. They refuse to lay the few of us off because they say we are needed…even though we sit here day after day with nothing to do. The labor dept is a joke. They monitored them for less than a year, made them pay a few paychecks and now say there is nothing they can do. I have been looking for another job since last November with no luck.

Nicole September 21st, 2010 at 2:45 am 14

Sandra, Did you sign a contract when you started working for them? Or Did you get an employee handbook that states the way you are supposed to be paid, like bi-weekly or every other friday? I live in california so I am not sure what your laws are. If I were you, I would find the nearest employment development department in your area and stop by on my lunch break. There are ussually employees walking around in the lobby to answer questions and ask one of them. I found some info on florida unemployment and it states that you must be unemployed through no fault of your own. (same as california) but I think not getting regular paychecks or not knowing when you are going to get paid might be a gray area. I would def. ask. that is the site, you should be able to find your nearest office. Don’t call! if it is anything like california, you will never get through! Hope that helps!

lauren September 28th, 2010 at 4:28 pm 15

I got laid off from a job(training)and got a new job before after it ended. I’m not feeling this job so much so if I get fired or quit can I collect the benefits? I live in nyc

George October 2nd, 2010 at 2:02 am 16

Lost my job this week in New York City, I am also a non driver ( so no NY driver’s license ) and don’t have a non drivers id, can I still file and use something else for proof of identity and residence? ie passport? phone bill, cable bill etc? Will I need to file by phone and send documentation or can this still be done online with say a passport because I don’t have a license? Do I need old paychecks or do they get that from employer automatcially? thanks for all your help and here’s a toast to finding good work asap – thank you. George

Sarah October 14th, 2010 at 8:17 pm 17

I was working through the JOBS program (through DHR in alabama…) and it was subsidized employment…I worked for 6 months and was laid off because my employer did not have the funds

to continue paying my salary…Am I eligible to apply for unemployment?

I have been off work for cancer treatment with lingering anemia, very tired, but recovering. I was due to go back to work on November 1, but received a call from my boss telling me that he did not want me to return for 2-3 months because business is very slow. I believe I am capable of returning to my job, however, apprehensive because I am so weak. I do not know if I am capable of going out and looking for work. I tire very easily and have several doctors’ appointments scheduled each month. I contacted the disability office and was told that my remedies were disability, unemployment,or to go home and live with my mom. (I did not tell him that it was the 16th anniversary of her death that same day) I feel uneasy about asking for an extension of disability but do not know if I qualify for unemployment. Any suggestions? I was looking so forward to try to get back to a normal life after this extended frightening illness. Now I don’t know what to do. Thank you. Margaret

Marie October 23rd, 2010 at 9:40 pm 19

My EDD office is closed on Saturday’s. So, here’s my question. I am eligle for a new claim, but it is less than, what I had previously received. Will it be feasible to opt out of the 26 weeks, and ask for only 6 weeks? This new claim will be less than $140, per week. Hopefully, my employment interview next week, will keep me from living off of UI.

Thank you. Marie (employed since 1973)

MIQuestion October 28th, 2010 at 6:55 pm 20

Any help on this question would be appreciated.

I was laid off for the summer. I knew I would be going back to work at the same place in September. I was laid off in June. I had ankle replacement surgery over the summer. The only restriction I was ever on was sit all day at first and as much as possible after a few weeks. I went back to work in September. The unemployment office today sent me a letter stating I was disabled and I have to return 4 times the amount I was paid while laid off over the summer. I am not disabled I am doing the same job I was before the surgery in the same manner. What do I do to convince the unemployment agency that I am not disabled?

Thank you for any help you can provide.

Hi, I live in Texas and was given a lay-off notice by my employer: but the thing is it is not due to start for 6 weeks. My question is, if I choose to not work the whole six weeks (decide to “enact the lay-off early” as per the notice) will I still be eligble for unemployment? The atmosphere is uncomfortable at best and I anticipate now it will be much worse.

Kena February 4th, 2011 at 9:17 pm 22

Our store is closing in a week, and I’ll be without a job. My dr wants to take me off work now due to problems in pregnancy. Would I still be eligible for unemployment benefits? I live and work in KY. Thank you so much.

Kena February 4th, 2011 at 9:19 pm 23

Our store is closing in a week, and I’ll be without a job. My dr wants to take me off work now due to problems in pregnancy. Would I still be eligible for unemployment benefits? I live and work in KY. Thank you so much.

In Wyoming if I am collecting unemployment and actively seeking a position, can I consider it a job search if I am checking in weekly with a possible employer who is expecting some seasonal job openings?

joy March 15th, 2011 at 3:05 pm 25

My brother has been off work for over a month because of a foot problem. His doctor won’t release him because of the job he does has to do with working in water alot of times. He works at the water department for Denver, CO. Right now his wife is the only one working. They are going to lose thier home if he does not get another job. His job will not lay him off either. He also has no money to get a special boot for his foot so it can heel correctly. If he goes to work without this anywhere that requires him to stand on his feet or get in water he can lose his foot. Can he apply for unempolyment?

Christi March 21st, 2011 at 11:56 am 26


My husband is drawing unemployment from his PREVIOUS employer NOT the employer that just laid him off. He said he ask the unemployment office why they are doing it that way ( also the amount he is getting is smaller). They said it’s because his employer hadn’t paid in their 6 month unemployment taxes yet so he had to go back to his last employer, and like I said above he is getting a smaller amount a week than if they would do it the correct way with the employer that he worked for at the time when he was laid off. Does this sound like this can really be done? It doesn’t sound fair to me it seems like something should be able to be done about it. I would appreciate any information.

Thank you for your time!

Tony April 11th, 2011 at 9:34 pm 27


I was working at a job from April-2009 to August-2009. The company laid me off due to lack of work. I didn’t file for unemployment.

I didn’t work until January of 2010. I worked for a temp service until April. I quit that job because I didn’t fit in and it was too stressful. Will I qualify for unemployment from my first job that ended in August?

Doug June 22nd, 2011 at 9:03 pm 28

I just landed in the same place as you. Call your local CalVet or Veterans Affairs Rep. Get the skinny then talk to EDD. I don’t know but I’d have to assume knowing CA they’ll do what ever they can to minimize the payments – bastards.

toby parker July 14th, 2011 at 2:03 pm 29

my temporary disability in nj ends in september. i will be moving with my husband to south carolina. can i collect unemployment since my previous job will not be available to me

returned to teaching for 5 years. My last year my

lina November 4th, 2011 at 2:19 pm 34

my mother recently moved from OR to WA state state. seh was working in oregon but we had a family emergency causing her her move up here. she found work thru a temp angency, but work startted to slow down she got laid off. my question is can my mother qualify for unemployment in the state of wa?

Danielle November 8th, 2011 at 11:52 am 35

I was laid off, but now my employer is offering me a lower paying position that is part time, can I still collect unemployment to make up for the loss of salary and benefits? The part time hours are just short of full time but will still be a problem with my finances. I am so confused, it would still be a job, but it would be like a demotion I think but at least I would not be unemployed.

Crystal November 18th, 2011 at 1:36 am 36

I was let go from my job in April after I had surgery and could no longer be accommodated. I have permanent work restrictions but a zero disability. I was denied unemployment because they said I couldn’t work with my restrictions, but they told me if I didn’t have the restrictions I could collect. I applied for social security disability and was denied because they found that I could work. Its way past the appeal date for unemployment because I was waiting to hear from ssd should I bother trying to appeal and just tell them I was waiting for proof I could work? I’m about to lose everything and don’t know if I should appeal or just reopen my claim and tell them I have no restrictions. Its just limited stairs and squatting. and this is in can.

Crystal November 18th, 2011 at 1:38 am 37

*California sorry not can

Mike Jenkins November 22nd, 2011 at 12:19 pm 38

I am 56 and draw a state retirement for 30 years of service, I went back to work after retiring. I have been employed with a company for 3 years selling to the Gov’t. the lates cuts in spending has my job in jeapordy. If i am laid off can I draw unemployment benifits even though I draw a pension. My Job is 2/3 of my income that I have to have to live on. I live in TN and cannaot get an answer. I do know of people on SS and get laid off and draw unemployment.

hello my name is yarkeshila mcclinton and i am currently on unemployment, but I also see that you all help with other things as well. I have been doing all i can to get a passport for me and my son and i cannot seem to get any help with the funding of it i only get 80.00 a week. can you all help me and my son or just one of us to get the passports.

I live in CA. I would like to know what happens when someone changes their address, not out of state but within counties,they are about an hour distance. Does unemployment keep paying you with no problems or would this cause a delay?

thanks in advance

lenny December 14th, 2011 at 11:39 pm 41

Unemployment agent said I would receive my payment in 2 to 3 business days. I logged into my account and noticed that no money has been released. Is it possible that the agent lied to get me off the phone 2 times in a row? Any info on this would be helpful.

joel December 16th, 2011 at 5:21 am 42

I live in texas and been collecting unemployment benefits for almost a year while working part time. I recently got a call for the disable american veteran office in san diego ca, they informed me that my disability claim was going to be approved and rated that day and I would be receieving a check of back pay for 10months. I was wondering can I be penalize from the state of texas for receiving all the backpay??

Tish February 8th, 2012 at 6:42 pm 43

I live in TN and I resigned from my job because of its effect on my mental health, I made several strides to overcome it and made resigning a last resort, after several failed attempts I decided I am not mentally stable enough to handle the job requirements,(I’m a Debt Collector). So I gave my resignation. Is it possible for me to qualify for UE benefits?

Dee February 9th, 2012 at 5:59 am 44

I’ll be 59 in June. My company is in Chapter 11 and in the process of out-sourcing. Will I still be eligible for New York State Unemployment compensation if I choose Forced early retirement vs a layoff?

Ro February 16th, 2012 at 5:34 am 45

I am set to receive UI benefits for $358/wk. The only problem is that I make $381/week at my part time job at a local high school. Because of that $23 difference, I keep getting rejected for benefits. I have formally requested reconsideration of the benefit amount but what are the chances that I will get them to up the amount by $24/+ dollars? What else can I attempt to get them to change the amount so that I can actually collect?

Tasha February 16th, 2012 at 3:04 pm 46

I am getting married in a few days. I quit my job to relocate where my husband lives and works. I’m also pregnant. In north Carolina am I possibly eligible? They said I made enough and I worked long enough, I was full time. But relocating, do you think ill get it?

Kimberly February 18th, 2012 at 10:20 am 47

I left my job because my boss wouldn’t let me get my child at school from a after school program back in october 2012. They wouldn’t let me go because there wasn’t any body to cover me for that shift. We had a big fall out in Jan 2012 and she said some stuff to me like” if u leave u will pay consequence”. Another one was that I wanted to take that day off and not work and she said “If u take that day off I am not going to put u on the schedule at all” that lead to me to think that I needed to pick from My job or my family. The next day they fixed it but not except one day a month and it wouldn’t of happen if I didn’t speak up andstand up for my self but I still wasn’t happy because I wanted every all 4 days of the month. I left my job at the end of Jan and filed for unemployment. In this case I needed to have a phone interview for my case why I left to see if I will receive benifits. Do u think I will win the case because my job wouldn’t wouldn’t commadate my needed to pick up my child.

Bob March 21st, 2012 at 2:00 pm 48

I draw a medical disability retirement from the federal government. I have worked for the 11 years since to make up the difference I lost. If I am laid off or unjustly fired can I draw unemployment benefits

Belinda March 28th, 2012 at 5:02 pm 49

I have taught in Kentucky public schools for 19 years. This year, I moved to a new school in a neighboring public school district or a sizable increase in salary. I was informed that as an experienced teacher, I would only have to serve 1 untenured year instead of the normal number required. Last week, all of the untenured teachers at my school received pink slips for next school year. I am frantic because I can find no teaching jobs listed for my certification. Would I be eligible for unemployment benefits to help cover expenses until I can find a new job?

Chris May 1st, 2012 at 2:16 pm 50

My job was eliminated and I am now unemployed. I live in NJ and worked in NY, which was a 2 hour commute each way. When I was hired, I was able to work from home. Since Nov, I was required to come into the office 5 days a week.

There is a question on the NY State Unemployment that asks “If you commuted on a daily basis, are you willing to continue to commute daily to New York State for work?”. Commuting 4 hours a day is unreasonable. If I answer no to this question, will this disqualify me from benefits? Would I be able to file my claim in NJ? Any help you can give me would be appreciated. Thanks!

Lonie August 23rd, 2012 at 9:02 pm 51


I was injured off the job with a torn ACL. I was seperated from my job after my FLMA expired & My doctor will only release me to do a sit down job.

I am a regional truck driver. am I able to recieve unemployment in the state of AL if my dr only releases me to sit down job only? I am available for work but my employer office is located over 300 miles away, The only available terminal is a drop yard only.

henderson September 14th, 2012 at 12:22 am 52

employer sold his grocier store chain back to corperate. now i have to reapplie thru corperate do i get to draw unemployment if corperate doesn’t hire me

SamanthaBri November 3rd, 2012 at 2:26 pm 53

Hello, i was approved for unemployment benefits but they said i was penalized for a claim i had in 2007 for claiming weeks while i worked which is totally true because i thought i could claim until my money ran out. I know stupid huh. Well i was wondering if you knew a way i could fight it or if there is any way around it? Also how long do they penalize for that? I only did 3 weeks of 167$ a week. State of oregon. Thank you.

I collected unemployment after my job closed after 12 years in January 2012.I started doing landscaping in April 2012.Now I have no more work,but I don’t have pay stubs but I always pay my taxes on my landscaping earnings.I just didn’t know how to collect a paycheck so I could get unemployment when I am not working.Can I still collect the leftover from my last job since I only collected for a few months?New York.

My co worker applied for unemployment due to lack of work. The boss wrote a letter to the unemployment board explaing that she had a sick child and had to take care of him. This is what she told him which is true. how can she can collect. I thought you had to be able bodied?

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