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. Jessica Griffin says:

    That means i wont get my unemployment then since i quit.

  2. Kenneth Cooper says:

    applying unemployment benefits

  3. Larraine Boyd says:

    I’ve been employed for 3 1/2 years. They had me sign a contract that said I would sell ‘X’ amount of advertising or I would be let go. I’ve not sold that amount and fear I will be let go soon. May I file unemployment?

    • Sam says:

      If it’s tagged as a “Performance” issue, you will not qualify for UI benefits are extended to those who lose their job due to involuntary reasons.

  4. ronald gordon says:

    how do i file a claim for unemployment online?

    • Sam says:

      Please let us know the state you would want to file from. You can either take the website address provided by us or search on Google/Bing with relevant keywords.

  5. Russell Dodd says:

    If I took a commission only job can I collect until I make a sale and get paid by this new company?

  6. Susan Macool says:

    I received notice today that I will be laid off due to downsizing as of February 10th. I will receive my final paycheck Feb 24, we are paid bi-weekly. When can I apply for benefits?

  7. KATHY says:

    In August of 2016 after 28 years of employment I was dismissed due to “downsizing”. I have been collecting a severance since then. In March of 2017 severance runs out and I will need to apply for unemployment benefits. I have been working part time since December 2016, will I still be able to collect partial unemployment benefits from my previous employment?

    • Sam says:

      Well, you may be required to wait until the severance pay from your main job is paid out. You may call the Unemployment Office to confirm if you can draw the benefits from the part time job.

  8. Angela says:

    I have a question. I had to fax extra paper work which I did yesterday and my status online says pending but when I call it says that I have a valid claim. I’m a little confused on if I have been approved.

    • Sam says:

      It may just a case of some mismatch in the records. Please speak to a representative from the claims center to clarify.

  9. Tanya Dixon says:

    I was fired from my job jan 6 2017 for poor job performance job is pending. I started june 2016

  10. Keith S. says:

    Is it possible to receive unemployment benefits and social security benefits at the same time in the state of Iowa?

    • Martin says:

      You should be able to, based on multiple inputs. Please call the Unemployment Office to clarify further and apply accordingly.

  11. Erin Yates says:

    I am confused. If I worked the last 8 months of 2016 one week in April and then all of May – December 2016 but had no work in 2015 or up to April 2016, I will only get the minimum a week in Oregon. Is that true? These last 8 months I earned close to $31,000. Oregon will not consider the time I worked before I was laid off?

    • Martin says:

      I am not really sure of the processing methodology in Oregon.

      Please call the Unemployment Office and speak to a representative for clarity.

  12. Quinn says:

    my work eliminated my position. They sent me home same day, said I did nothing wrong they just eliminated my role. They did give me a small severance package. Am I still eligible for unemployment benefits?

    • Martin says:

      Yes, you can be eligible to draw UI benefits.

      If the Severance pay was a lump sum, please apply immediately, else, wait until the payout is complete.

  13. prodromos says:

    I worked from May 2016 to December 2016. I claimed for benefits in December 2016. According to the “claim table” my claim is based on
    employment from: July 1, 2015 to June 30, 2016…
    So What about the other months that I worked in 2016??
    Must I refile a claim, when my benefits are depleted?

    • Martin says:

      When you apply, they consider the “Base Period”, which is 4 of the last 5 calendar quarters. I am assuming you were not employed before May 2016 and hence only the last completed quarter has been considered.

      Please call the Unemployment Office for further information.

  14. bob says:

    If your company moves you from full time to part time can you draw unemployment benefits

  15. curtis r watson says:

    I have run out of unemployment benefits but that I can file for more benefits. Please inform me how I can file for additional benefits.

    • Martin says:

      The E.U.C(Emergency Unemployment Compensation) remains expired. There is no extension available. Please inquire further with the labor authorities in your state by calling them.

  16. Lucy says:

    Hi- I am concerned I will be terminated by my employer because of differences and unrealistic expectations with my supervisor. If this happens, would I be eligible for unemployment?

    • Martin says:

      If it’s not voluntary and not your fault, you can be eligible to apply for UI benefits.

      Make sure to keep supporting documents handy in case of a dispute from your employer.

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