Unemployment Benefits Eligibility

Eligibility for unemployment insurance is determined by state law. More than half of jobless workers do not claim unemployment benefits because either they do not qualify or feel the filing process to be very complex. Contrary to this, numerous people meet the criteria for benefits and state unemployment offices have also reduced the amount of necessary paperwork over a period of time. This article will make eligibility criteria clear for filing unemployment benefits.

Want to know if you are eligible? Use our Eligibility Calculator

Unemployment Eligibility Requirements

eligibility requirements

Based on your state there may be eligibility requirements for unemployment coverage including having worked for a definite period of time. The Job Service may need job seekers to apply for jobs, submit resumes, and not turn down a position if it meets certain standards.

Other Eligibility Factors to determine benefits are:

  • Must be monetary eligible
  • Past earnings activity (labor force attachment)
  • Conditions of job separation
  • Be totally or partially unemployed
  • If you are identified as likely to tire out unemployment benefits and are registered in the worker profiling and reemployment services program, you have to fully participate in all assessment interviews, orientation, and referred reemployment services.

The State Job Service Offices are brilliant resources to aid with a job search. Many free services are provided including career counseling, job listings, resume and cover letter writing help, and training. Take benefit of the assistance state job service offices can give you –it will make your job easier.

Monetary Eligibility

Estimate Benefits

Unemployment Calculator

After filing an initial application for Unemployment Insurance benefits, you will obtain a Determination of Unemployment Compensation with facts about your monetary eligibility. The monetary determination is not an assurance of payment. It is to give advice to you and your employer that a claim for benefits has been filed, if qualified, what the weekly benefit rate will be and upon which earnings that rate is based.

Use our unemployment calculator to determine your eligibility.

Example 1:

Let’s take an example from the state of California. Anyone may file a claim for jobless benefits in California. However, not all those who file will be entitled. In order to be qualified you must first have adequate work and earnings to set up a claim (what’s recognized as Monetary Eligibility). The wages may be from work in California only, in California and another state(s), or from work with the federal government or U.S. military service in any state.

If in doubt, file the claim and allow the Employment Development Department (EDD) make the conclusion. If you cannot establish a valid California claim the EDD will tell you what your options are for getting a valid claim.

California glances at earnings grouped by calendar quarter. A quarter consists of three precise months; January, February, and March from the 1st quarter of the year, and so on. By law, the Employment Development Department can only employ the four quarters that ended before the last quarter to assess earnings. These four earnings are called the Base period of the claim; it is the only period of earnings that can be used to decide present eligibility.

How the Base Period is Determined?

Wages are drawn from a one-year period (four calendar quarters) to compute eligibility. This one-year period is called the Base Period.

If your claim is effective with any Sunday in: January, February, or March – The Base Period will be the first nine months (Jan-Sept) of last year and the last three months (Oct-Dec) of the year before last;

If your claim is effective with any Sunday in: April, May, or June – The Base Period will be all twelve months (Jan-Dec) of last year;

If your claim is effective with any Sunday in: July, August, or September – The Base Period will be the first three months of the current year (Jan-Mar) and the last nine months (Apr-Dec) of the last year;

If your claim is effective with any Sunday in: October, November, or December – The Base Period will be the first six months (Jan-June) of the current year and last six months (Jul- Dec) of the last year.

The quarter you file and the previous quarter (the months in red and white) do NOT count at all toward the Base Period, regardless of how much you earned. Neither does any time before the Base Period, even if you worked for fifty years. Benefits are only depending on the Base Period, which is, in turn, decided by the date you file for benefits.

Example 2:
Let’s consider the earnings requirements in California for example
You can establish a legal claim in two ways in the state of California:

  • Earn no less than $1300 in any one quarter of the Base Period, or
  • Earn no less than $900 in your uppermost quarter of earnings during the Base Period plus in the rest of the Base Period earn no less than 25% of the highest quarter earnings.

For instance, if you received $1000 in your highest quarter, the claim would only be legal if your total earnings all through the other three quarters amounted to $250, for a Base Period total of $1,250:

$1000 + (25% x $1000) = $1250 in total Base Period earnings.

So even though you earned $100,000 in your highest quarter, but did not earn as a minimum $25,000 all through the rest of the Base Period, you would not be qualified! Or if you only earned $899.99 in each quarter, you will fail by one penny. That is the rule.

When you file a claim the EDD will send back you a printed copy of the determination of monetary eligibility. Test out cautiously to settle on if your employer(s) reported your earnings properly. You can constantly request a recomputation if the data appears wrong.

EDD will also offer the following information:

  • The beginning and ending date of the claim
  • Weekly Benefit Amount
  • Maximum Benefit Amount

Weekly Benefit Amount

The sum of money to which a claimant may be entitled each week, based on the claimant’s covered wages paid during the base period.

Let’s consider an example from the state Mississippi:

The maximum Weekly Benefit Amount (WBA) allowed in Mississippi at this time is $235.00. Your WBA for unemployment insurance benefits depends on the total wages in the highest quarter of your Base Period and by dividing that amount by 26. The minimum WBA in Mississippi is $30.00. To estimate your WBA you must first determine what your wages are for the highest quarter during your Base Period.

To be eligible for benefits, you:

  • Must have worked in no less than two quarters of your base period,
  • Must have earned no less than $780.00 in the highest quarter of your base period, and
  • Must have earned 40 times your WBA in your base period.

The highest amount of benefits that can be paid to you during your Benefit Year is 26 times your WBA, or one-third of your total Base Period wages, whichever is the lesser.

If you file a claim for benefits and it is determined that you do not have enough wages in your base period to be eligible, you may reapply again after the quarter changes, if you are still jobless. The quarters used to decide the base period change every three months, on the first Sunday of January, April, July, and October.

Who can be claimed as a dependent?

If you do not meet the criteria for the maximum weekly benefit rate, you may be entitled to a dependency allowance. Dependant’s allowance is additional money added to a claimant’s weekly benefit amount if the claimant supports a dependent.

If you would like to claim a dependency allowance when you file your claim, you will be inquired to give the social security numbers of your dependent children.

Your dependent child or children must fall into one of the following categories:

  • Under 18 years of age.
  • Under 21 years of age and a full-time student.
  • A mentally or physically handicapped child of any age

You are required to give proof of dependency.

While you are receiving benefits, you must inform DUA (Department of Unemployment Assistance) if there is any change in the number of your dependent children or in your status of providing support. In total, 12 states pay dependency allowance.

For Example:

Total dependency allowance for Connecticut cannot be paid for more than five dependents ($75). California does not pay dependency allowances.

When to File for Unemployment?

Filing for unemployment must be the initial item on your plan when you have been laid-off. It might take a few weeks to collect a check, so the quicker you file, the faster you’ll get paid. A delay in filing will mean a wait in collecting unemployment benefits.

How to Claim Your Benefits?

In order to obtain unemployment compensation, workers must meet the unemployment eligibility requirements for wages earned or duration worked during an established (one year) period of time. Besides, workers must be firm to be unemployed through no fault of their own, so if you were fired or quit you may not be qualified for unemployment compensation.

Confirm with your State Unemployment Office for briefing on what benefits you are entitled to. You may be able to file over the phone. In various states, you can file online for unemployment.

In general, to file a claim you will need:

  • Social Security Number
  • Alien Registration Card if you’re not a US citizen
  • Mailing address including zip code
  • Phone number
  • Names, addresses and dates of employment of all your past employers for the last two years

Disqualification from Unemployment

The following conditions may disqualify you from collecting unemployment benefits depending on state law:

  • Quit without good cause
  • Fired for misconduct
  • Resigned because of illness (check on disability benefits)
  • Left to get married
  • Self-employed
  • Caught up in a labor dispute
  • Attending school

Check with the Unemployment Office if you have the above or any other special circumstances.

Frequently Asked Questions For Eligibility Criteria

Can I collect for voluntary termination of a job?

Yes, if the reason for leaving is justifiable and related to work or, in some circumstances, to domestic issues. Check with your state’s employment security office for clarification.

Will I qualify for unemployment if I was allowed to resign but received a severance package?

If you quit or get fired, then you are not eligible. Only hope is that you explain the situation to unemployment office (after you lose the job) and they consider your case under “good cause” provision.

If I start collecting social security does this stop my unemployment?

Unemployment insurance benefits are not counted under the Social Security annual earnings test and therefore do not affect your receipt of Social Security benefits. However, the unemployment benefit amount of an individual may be reduced by the receipt of a pension or other retirement income, including Social Security and Retirement benefits.

You should contact your state unemployment office for information on how your state applies the reduction.

Are elected officials eligible for unemployment compensation when terminated by a different employer?

The law does not allow using some types of wages to establish claims which include working as an elected official. Hence, may not be eligible to claim the benefit.

Can I file a claim if I already lost a week’s pay from my job?

Yes, because most states pay unemployment compensation benefits based on the amount of earnings for a particular week. However, it all depends upon your weekly benefit amount and, possibly, other factors. File the claim and see.

If I was contracted to work through a company and was let go due to loss of work can I file for unemployment?

Periods of self-employment don’t generally qualify for unemployment insurance claiming, as you’re not paying into the system. The other question likely is, do you qualify based upon your earnings from ex-employment other than the self-employment income? Depending on these factors it will be decided whether you are eligible or not.


  1. Luann says:

    My employer is planning a 1-2 week shut down in July. Can I file for unemployment for the time we are shut down?

    • Martin says:

      You should be able to, as long as its not a seasonal job.

      Please call the Unemployment Office for further clarity.

  2. Ganesh says:

    I worked for an Indiana company but in overseas (Singapore) for the last several years. I have been paying US and Indiana income tax every year. Last year November, I lost my job. Will I qualify for unemployment benefits if I return to Indiana? Thank you.

    • Martin says:

      You must have applied immediately after losing the job since one of the eligibility conditions requires you to be employed in the preceding 4-5 quarters.

      If you haven’t worked since Nov last year, please call the Unemployment Office in Indiana and apply accordingly.

  3. jisele says:

    I worked at one company for 15 years, 2001-2016. At the start of this year I started with a new company, only to be laid off last week (4 months of employment.) Do I qualify for UI?

    • Martin says:

      Yes, you will be eligible. You can use the Benefits Calculator on this site for an estimate.

      Please consider applying.

  4. Marle says:

    Worked in North Dakota for 2 years and recently laid off, moved home to Michigan to look for work. I opened a claim 4/25/2016, if I get hired construction in Michigan for the summer and work 6 months before being laid off for season can I restart my North Dakota claim?

    • Martin says:

      If you’re in a seasonal job, you may not be eligible for scheduled time off from work.

      Please check further with the labor authorities in your state.

  5. deborah kurtz says:

    hi I am still waiting for my debit card will I be receiving it soon I have been out of work since Feb 25 2016 I’m am looking for work but I have not been able to find anything yet please let me know I am getting very nervous about not having any money thank you

    • Martin says:

      Please call the claims center on the phone numbers provided for an update.

      This is a private forum and we do not have access to your claim information.

  6. Angel says:

    I started my claim on 10.15.15 ends on 10.14.16 but my balance will end on MAY and still no luck getting hired. What should i do after or before my balance is out?



    • Martin says:

      Please check with the Unemployment Office in your state and apply accordingly.

      Unfortunately, personal reasons such as health are not considered.



    • Martin says:

      Please note this is a private forum. Kindly contact the Unemployment Office in your state to know the status.

  9. LUke says:

    My benefit year was from 04/05/2015 – 04/02/2016. My benefits ended in Oct/2016 (6 months). Unfortunately, I have not found a job yet, but would like to reapply today (4/4/2016). I do not know what to check off for: “Have you filed an Unemployment Insurance Claim in California in the last 12 months”. My last claim (payment) was Oct/2016. Is anyone else in a similar situation, and has an answer? Thanks in advance.

    • Martin says:

      UI benefits are not revolving in nature. You can only apply for them once, for a full cycle.

      Please do not reapply.

  10. Erasmo says:

    I live in Silicon Valley, California, and I’m being laid off on Jun 1st after 20 years of uninterrupted employment in the software industry. I’m considering selling my house and moving to Oregon where living expenses are lower and to continue looking for employment there. Do I qualify for unemployment?

    • Martin says:

      If you’re voluntarily quitting your job to move out of the state for better prospects, you will not quality for Unemployment Benefits.

      UI is only extended to those who lose their job due to involuntary reasons such as Lay Offs.

  11. Lisa Erickson says:

    My hours have been cut in half because of physical problems. I cannot afford to lose my job and apply for SS. I have to miss 4-7 days of work to get short term disability which is also impossible. Can I get unemployment until I am able to get back to work full-time?

    • Martin says:

      Well, if the hours cut were due to involuntary reasons such as deliberation of the employer across the department, you can claim and receive.

  12. Melissa says:

    While my husband worked I was a stay at home Mom for a year and a half. I started a job this past Sept 2015 and was unfortunately laid off this past Jan 2016 through no fault of my own. I applied for unemployment only to be told I didn’t earn enough wages in a quarter to be eligible for benefits. I have never heard of such as the person has no control over when they are laid off with no return date due to low productivity. I have worked my entire life.

    • Martin says:

      I can understand your situation Melissa. Wish we could change the rules.

      If the eligibility conditions are not met, they will reject.

  13. samuel pizza says:

    When i retire can i get ui with ss is retirement a validreason for ui benefits#

  14. Katie says:

    My husband was laid of in Sept. He was given a 2 month severance package they also handed him a folder that he says was really thick and full of legal stuff he did not understand, when telling them he did not understand he was told it basically said he was agreeing not to file for unemployment an accepting the severance, They did not give him a copy to keep so now I am wondering if they can keep him from filing or if it was just stating he couldn’t file for the 2 months.
    He is very adamant they meant not to file at all period.
    He was confident with his experience he would find a job really fast and then things everywhere slowed down. My question is #1 Can they do that? #2 6 months later can he still file or has he missed a window he should have filed by? we have ran out of money and could be looking at losing our home because someone has convinced him he cannot file.
    He is to proud to go by the TWC and find out he feels as if he is asking for a hand out, but I feel like he pays taxes into that for this reason.
    Any help would be greatly appreciated.

    • Martin says:

      I don’t this its legally valid to stop anyone from applying for UI benefits.

      Any jobless worker can apply after the expiry of the severance pay. Please speak the the Unemployment Office in your state and apply accordingly.

  15. ricky says:

    I graduated college in may of 2013. My 1st job lasted 6 months Aug 13′ thru Feb 14′ due to my resignation for job related issues that don’t matter here.
    I found work in my related field of engineering in Sept 14′ thru Jan 15′ when I left this job to start a new one with better pay and prestige, etc. I gave my 2 weeks notice and began my new job in Feb 15′. I unfortunately was laid off in Apr 15′.
    I filed and was approved for UC benefits beginning May 15′ thru Sept 15′ when my UC benefits were exhausted to $0. My benefit year began 04/19/2015 and is set to end 04/16/2016.
    I luckily found work in Oct 15′ making over $50,000. Now I find myself laid off once again to no fault of my own. Using WI UC benefit calculator I made enough money during my last job to collect the maximum benefit rate.
    My question is: will my benefits begin again with a new benefit year or am I in a unique position where I fall through the cracks because I still am stuck in this original benefit year 04/19/2015 thru 04/16/2016?
    I’ve searched the internet and have not found the answer to this. Will my unemployment compensation start again?

    • Martin says:

      Unemployment Benefits are not revolving in nature. If there are any benefit weeks left in your account, you can receive.

      Please call the Unemployment Office in your state for precise information.

  16. chris says:

    Have been in a management position for over a year with salary pay. Was recently told directions are changing for the company and I was being demoted from management entirely and demoted, And wanted to put me back to my starting driving position @ hourly pay being significantly lower. Can I file for unemployment.

    • Martin says:

      Please explore the relevant labor laws in this regard. We do not have precise information.

      Perhaps, you can call the Unemployment Office for precise details.

  17. Mrs. Davis says:

    I will leave my State job in two weeks to take care of my father who is in end stage renal failure. I have been employed for 17 months. Will I qualify for unemployment?

    • Martin says:

      You will not be eligible since unemployment insurance is only extended to those who become unemployed due to involuntary reasons.

  18. nicole says:

    I was placed on unpaid administrative leave, can I file for unemployment

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