What Does an Employer Pay Off for Unemployment?

The amount that an employer shells out for unemployment will depend on the sum of his payroll, his track record in keeping employees and the rates that are specific to his state. Besides, all employers should pay a federal unemployment tax that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) funnels back to the states to help pay administrative costs for unemployment programs.

How much is a Claim going to Cost Employers?

Most employers are legally responsible to pay premiums into the trust fund on the first $7000 paid to each employee in the calendar year. Premium rates for new non-governmental employers are based on the experience of their industry grouping, if the industry grouping has an extremely high benefit payout. All other new employers are allotted a 2.7% new employer premium rate. In the past, mining and construction are the only industries with new employer rates higher than 2.7%.

Employers responsible for premiums for three consecutive calendar years as of December 31 have rates based on their skill. Premium rates vary from 0.0% to 10% for non-governmental employers and from 0.3% to 3% for governmental employers. Local and state governments and certain nonprofit employers have the choice of paying premiums or repaying the trust fund for their share of benefits paid to the former employees.

Employer Liability for Unemployment Taxes

In order to fund unemployment compensation benefit programs, employers are subject to federal and state unemployment taxes depending on several factors. These factors include the sums employers pay their employees, the unemployment claims filed against the business, and the type & age of the business.

Employers must pay federal and state unemployment taxes so as to fund the unemployment tax system. Unemployment compensation is intended to pay benefits to workers when they are laid off through no fault of their own.


The Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA) imposes a payroll tax on employers, depending on the wages they pay to their employees. Unlike some other payroll taxes, the business itself has to pay the FUTA tax. You do not hold back the FUTA tax from an employee’s wages.

Your business has to pay the FUTA tax if during the current or the previous calendar year you meet any of the following tests:

  1. You pay wages totaling at least $1,500 to your employees in any calendar quarter; or
  2. You have at least one employee on any given day in each of 20 different calendar weeks

Once you fulfill either of the tests, you become liable for the FUTA tax for the whole calendar year and for the next calendar year as well.

Computing the Tax

The FUTA tax is imposed at a single flat rate on the first $7,000 of wages that you give each employee. Once an employee’s wages for the calendar year go beyond $7000, you have no additional FUTA liability for that employee for the year.

Credit for State Unemployment Taxes

You can usually claim credits against your gross FUTA tax to reflect the state unemployment taxes you pay. If you paid all your state unemployment taxes on time, and prior to the due date of your FUTA tax return, you will be permitted to claim a credit equal to 5.4% of your federally taxable wages. This will in effect reduce the FUTA tax to 0.6%.

Unlike state unemployment tax rates, your federal unemployment tax rate does not reduce if you do not dismiss workers. However you will save money on federal unemployment tax if you have fewer employees with higher earnings rather than a greater number of employees each earning less money.

State Unemployment Tax Employer Liability

Similar to how the federal UC program is funded; in order to fund each state’s unemployment compensation program almost all the states impose unemployment taxes directly on employers. Also similar to the federal system is the fact that apart from a few states, you do not withhold these taxes from your employees’ wages.

If you have employees in New Jersey, Alaska, or Pennsylvania you will also be withholding unemployment taxes from your employees’ wages since these states assess unemployment taxes on employees.

State Tax Rate

Your state unemployment tax rate is based on your history as an employer. When you first open your UI account, your tax rate will be fairly high because you have no track record. If you work for several years without laying off an employee, your tax rate will go down. If you continually lay off employees, your tax rate will increase.

Are you Liable for Your State’s Unemployment Taxes?

In nearly all states, if you are subject to the federal unemployment tax, you are automatically accountable for the state unemployment tax. In the remaining states, broader tests are applied for taxability. It means that if you have employees in the states with the broader tests for taxability, you may finish up paying state unemployment taxes even if you are not obliged to pay the federal ax.

Computing Your State Unemployment Tax Liability

Computing what you owe in state unemployment taxes is just a matter of multiplying the wages you pay each of your employees by your tax rate. However, each state confine the tax you have to pay with respect to any one employee by detailing a maximum wage amount to which the tax applies. Once an employee’s wages for the calendar year surpass that maximum amount, your state tax liability with respect to that employee ends.

Payroll Amount

The sum that you pay in the unemployment tax depends on the total sum of your payroll. Both federal and state unemployment taxes are computed as percentages, so higher gross payroll will convert to a higher unemployment premium even if your tax rate is low. However, wages subject to federal unemployment taxes are limited at $7000 per employee, so federal unemployment tax depends less on the wages paid to each employee.

How It Works

If you are laid off due to conditions that are not your fault, you are entitled for state unemployment benefits. You are qualified to obtain unemployment if your employer lays you off due to lack of work, but you are not allowed if you simply do not feel like getting up and going to work unless you have a medical condition that makes it difficult to do so. Your employer does not directly pay the unemployment benefits that you receive, but he will pay a higher unemployment tax rate because you have made a claim against his account.

    1. Jose,

      We’re not a scam or a fraud website:) has been around for more than 10 years and we’re one of the leading forums for unemployment insurance and unemployment in general. Our daily visitor and patron base is of considerable size and we truly believe in being a center for jobless workers to access resources and share their queries.

  1. I’m attemptiing to file my first weekly claim since my layoff, however, my PIN# is not correct. what do I do to get my correct PIN# , please?

  2. I have exhausted my unemployment benefits in Texas but my calendar year does not end until September. Do I have to wait until the calendar year is over in Texas, to apply for unemployment benefits in New York in which I have available quarters?

    1. Mattie,

      As much as I am aware, UI benefits are only a one-time cycle. Please call the Claims Center for clarification.

  3. Help ran out of unemployment benefits for the pass 8 years i have worked at Hexion speciality chemical plant in Brady Texas how can i get my benefits extended

    1. Roderick,

      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.

    1. Annette,

      You can visit the official website of the Unemployment Office and ‘login’ to check the claim status. Alternatively, you can also call the Claims Center.

      PS: It should not take 6 weeks to process the initial claim. Please chase at regular intervals.

    1. Jocelyn,

      Unemployment is offered to claimants who’re able and available for work. Please call the Unemployment Office to ascertain if you can apply.

  4. I have been working for the same company for the past 11 years. I started out cleaning apartments, then landscaping and finally Asst. Manager for the past seven years. However, the owner/ manager had us all sign papers claiming we were “Independent Contractors.” I worked Monday thru Friday from 8am – 5pm the entire 11 years. Obviously, in reality, we had Never been “Independent Contractors.”
    Finally, October 2018 we became employee’s. On May 10, 2019 he sold the business which puts us all out of work. I tried filing for unemployment, but, I don’t have enough quarters in. Assuming I’m still out of work, can I wait for the next quarter to end, thus giving me the 2 quarters I need or will it not make a difference.

    1. Lea,

      Why don’t you look at alternate based period? Please use the link below to access the Base Period calculator.

  5. I have been working as an hourly employee for the last 4 months. Currently the board of the nonprofit agency came to me and told me that I had to file a 1099 or go to part time or find a new job. I have a scheduled time that I report to work. What are the laws here in Florida about who can receive a 1099

  6. I am unemployed and currently going to a community college. How can I apply for federal assistance?

    1. Carol,

      If you’re able and available for full-time employment, you can directly go to the website of the Unemployment Office and apply.

  7. I have worked in AZ since March 2016. However, I moved lived and worked for my employer in CA since 08/02/1982. Can I apply for Cali unemployment benefits?

    1. Robert,

      You should be applying from the state where your employment was based. Employers generally remit unemployment taxes to the state where the employee is based.

      1. How long does it take Washington state unemployment to deposit your back pay after they receive the determination letter from OAH stating I won my appeal?

  8. I have been trying for over a month to file and I still do not seem to be able to do it, but I finally got to the correct place, I think.

  9. Cumberland NJ Unemployment Center kept me on hold for 2 hours; I finally had someone answer my call, after providing my information and question regarding the status of my NJ Unemployment Claim the representative disconnected my call.

  10. Excellent list of things to help execute better. Even taking 3 or 4 of these that one does not currently utilize could help immensely.

    1. How did you calculate the total weekly Illinois benefit of $1495? Also, why isn’t Washington and Minnesota listed in your top 5 states with the highest paid unemployment insurance compensation?

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