Base Period for Filing Unemployment Benefits

Updated : August 4th, 2020

Estimate Your Base Period Using this Tool:

Select your filing month and year:

Your Base Period is:

The base period in a broader sense is the period of employment prior to losing the job. It is also referred to as base year. The base period is generally the first four of the last five completed calendar quarters prior to the effective date of the claim/unemployment. So what is a calendar quarter? Every calendar year is divided into four parts, known as “quarters”. Here are the 4 calendar quarters –



Calendar Quarter

Coming to the Base Period, if the unemployment claim is filed in January, February or March of 2013, then the base period is October 2011 through September 2012.

Although the base period is defined by state unemployment agencies, the following chart explains a definition adopted by many states.

Regular Base Period

For the base period to be considered valid, the employment should be covered or insured. Covered / Insured Employment is when the employer would have contributed unemployment insurance taxes to the government. These taxes aid a worker while unemployed.

Base period helps determine the monetary eligibility, where the recipient should have earned a minimum amount in the base period to qualify for unemployment benefits. It also determines the amount of benefits a person is entitled to.

What happens if you have not worked for more than a year? You may qualify for the alternate base period. An alternate base period is the last four calendar quarters prior to unemployment. The alternate base period is not something you can choose to use. It can be used only if you cannot establish monetary entitlement using your wages in the traditional base period. This means, if you have not earned sufficient wages during your traditional base period, the state government will apply the alternate base period to the claim to determine monetary eligibility. Additional information like most recent quarter earning, proof of wages earned in the form of pay stubs and verification of wages earned during the quarter from your employer may be asked for in case of the alternate base period. Here’s a chart explaining alternate base period –

Alternate Base Period

Contact your local state unemployment office to find out the exact criteria used for base period calculations before filing for unemployment. Some states are flexible with base period requirements and allow you to “borrow” from quarters outside of base period if you do not have enough credits.

If you are looking to file for unemployment benefits, please refer to the guides on the side menu or state-specific pages.



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  1. My benefits ended Jan. 11, 2020. Will I be eligible for 13 week extension and if so how do I claim in N.J.?

    1. John,

      We understand this might be a difficult time for you. We’re anticipating a shortage of staff across unemployment offices due to the massive surge in UI applications considering the pandemic. We advise against calling or visiting the office, as you may not get a response instantly. Please read more about the situation here https://fileunemployment.org/coronavirus/

      Your state may have activated “Extended Benefits (EB)” authorized by the federal government. We recommend you apply for UI benefits online. For more information, please visit your state’s official Unemployment website.

  2. I have been trying to apply for unemployment,on-line and by phone, for several days. My first attempt was on the day that I was required by last name. I truly understand that there is going to be an extremely large,either by phone or on-line,influs of applicants to complete this process. Following the prompts do not seem to work since I am guided to another section that does not pertain to applying. I am extremely frustrated. I need to complete my unemployment claim. May you please tell me what I need to do?

    1. Edna,

      We understand this might be a difficult time for you. We’re anticipating a shortage of staff across unemployment offices due to the massive surge in UI applications considering the pandemic. We advise against calling or visiting the office, as you may not get a response instantly. Please read more about the situation here https://fileunemployment.org/coronavirus/

      Your state may have activated “Extended Benefits (EB)” authorized by the federal government. We recommend you apply for UI benefits online. For more information, please visit your state’s official Unemployment website.

    1. I am not sure how it works in your state. We suggest you visit the Unemployment Office’s website and learn more about it under the FAQs section.

  3. I am confused, my Illinois unemployment was accepted on March 29th, but I don’t call to certify for benefits until Monday, March 13th. I thought they were waiving the waiting week. Now I have to wait almost 3 weeks for any kind of financial relief? Do I not get the 600 for the care plan? if I do when will that be here? will it be direct deposit? Please help me.

    1. Jennifer,

      Please try finding answers online since there might be limited phone support due to the shortage of staffing. You can use the “Resources” or “FAQs” section of the website.

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