How to File for
Unemployment Benefits

Nilda Melissa Diaz By Nilda Melissa Diaz, Career Advice ContributorRated 4.5/5 Stars

Losing a job or getting laid off can be challenging. The national unemployment rate is at 3.6%, with some states and territories going as high as 6.4% as of 2022. It’s a hard spot no one likes to be in and can get overwhelming quickly.

Unemployment Benefits Mob

Between figuring out your next move and searching for a job, you might be considering filing a claim for unemployment benefits. If so, we’re here to make things easier for you by explaining the unemployment process, how to determine if you’re eligible and providing a guide on unemployment benefits by state.

If you’re interested in learning how we can further help you, check out our Resume Builder and Cover Letter Builder. They’ll make the job application process easier.

What is unemployment insurance?

Unemployment insurance is a federal-state program created by the U.S. Department of Labor that provides unemployment benefits to eligible people. While each state’s government is free to customize their unemployment benefits program however they see fit, they must all follow the same guidelines established by federal law.

This means that eligibility rules, how unemployment benefits are calculated and the length of unemployment benefits will vary state by state.

Are you eligible for
unemployment benefits?

As we said before, the eligibility rules for unemployment benefits vary state by state. However, you may usually qualify if:

  • You’re unemployed through no fault of your own. In most states, this means that the employer let you go because there was no available work or they fired you unfairly.
  • You meet your state’s base period. To collect unemployment benefits, you must have worked a minimum amount of time or received a minimum payment from your previous employer. For most states, the base period is one year and it’s the first four out of the last five completed calendar quarters before you file the claim.These are the calendar quarters:
    1. January–March
    2. April–June
    3. July–September
    4. October–December

    So, for example, if you apply for unemployment benefits in March 2022, the base period would be Oct. 1, 2020, through Sept. 30, 2021.

  • You meet any additional state requirements. Remember, some things will vary by state, so you must check your state’s unemployment benefits program.

How are unemployment benefits calculated?

States use different formulas to calculate how much unemployment benefits you’ll receive, but they all consider what you used to earn. Some states, for example, consider your annual earnings while others only look at your payments during the highest paid quarter or two-quarters of the based period.

Some other things to know about earnings:

  • If you’re eligible for unemployment benefits, the notice they send will say how much you can expect to receive.
  • Unemployment benefits are taxable. You can choose to have up to 10% withheld to pay federal income taxes.
  • If you earn other income while receiving unemployment benefits, the amount you receive may be reduced. If you pick up temporary work for a few days, you must report it to your state’s unemployment office and they’ll decide whether to adjust your unemployment benefits.
  • If you find a new job, you will no longer be eligible for unemployment benefits.

What’s the duration of unemployment benefits?

While it varies by state, usually, most states offer unemployment benefits for up to 26 weeks (or half a year). However, unemployment benefits might be extended further in times of high unemployment, like the COVID-19 pandemic. Be sure to check with your local unemployment agency about how long you’ll be receiving unemployment benefits.

Applying for unemployment benefits

Anyone can apply for unemployment benefits and receive them, so long as they meet their state’s requirements.

How to apply for unemployment benefits

You must file a claim with your state’s unemployment agency to receive unemployment benefits. Depending on the state, you may file this claim in person, by telephone or online.

  • After becoming unemployed, you should contact your state’s unemployment benefits office.
  • Typically, your claim should be filed with the state where you worked. If you worked remotely with a company in another state or more than one state, the unemployment agency where you now live could give you the information you need about filing your claim with other states.
  • You will be asked for specific information, like your physical address and the dates of your former employment. Be sure to give the correct and up-to-date information. Otherwise, your claim might be delayed.
  • It may take two to three weeks after you file your claim to receive your first unemployment benefit check.

Unemployment benefits by state and territories

benefits for …
Agency namePhone number
AlabamaAlabama Department of Labor1-866-234-5382
AlaskaAlaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development907-269-4700
ArizonaArizona Department of Economic Security1-877-600-2722
ArkansasArkansas Department of Workforce Services501-682-2121
CaliforniaCalifornia Employment Development Department1-800-300-5616
ColoradoColorado Department of Labor and Employment303-318-9000
ConnecticutConnecticut Department of Labor1-800-956-3294
DelawareDelaware Department of LaborNew Castle County:
Other Areas:
District of ColumbiaDistrict of Columbia Department of Employment Services202-724-7000
FloridaFlorida Department of Economic Opportunity1-800-204-2418
GeorgiaGeorgia Department of Labor1-877-709-8185
HawaiiHawaii Department of Labor and Industrial RelationsOahu:
IdahoIdaho Department of Labor208-332-8942
IllinoisIllinois Department of Employment Security1-800-244-5631
IndianaIndiana Department of Workforce Development1-800-891-6499
IowaIowa Workforce Development1-866-239-0843
KansasKansas Department of Labor1-800-292-6333
KentuckyKentucky Career Center Office of Unemployment Insurance502-564-2900
LouisianaLouisiana Workforce Commission1-866-783-5567
MaineMaine Department of Labor1-800-593-7660
MarylandMaryland Department of Labor410-949-0022
MassachusettsMassachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance617-626-6338
MichiganMichigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity1-866-500-0017
MinnesotaMinnesota Department of Employment and Economic DevelopmentTwin Cities Area:
Greater Minnesota:
MississippiMississippi Department of Employment Security601-493-9427
MissouriMissouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations1-800-320-2519
MontanaMontana Department of Labor and Industry406-444-2545
NebraskaNebraska Department of Labor1-855-995-8863
NevadaNevada Department of Employment Training and RehabilitationNorthern Nevada:
Southern Nevada:
Rural Areas and Out of State Callers:
New HampshireNew Hampshire Department of Employment Security1-800-852-3400
New JerseyNew Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce DevelopmentNorth New Jersey:
Central New Jersey:
South New Jersey:
Out-of-state claims:
New MexicoNew Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions1-877-664-6984
New YorkNew York Department of Labor1-888-209-8124
North CarolinaNorth Carolina Department of Commerce1-888-737-0259
North DakotaNorth Dakota Job Service701-328-4995
OhioOhio Department of Job and Family Services1-877-644-6562
OklahomaOklahoma Employment Security Commission1-800-555-1554
OregonOregon Employment Department1-877-345-3484
PennsylvaniaPennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry1-888-313-7284
Puerto RicoPuerto Rico Department of Labor and Human Resources787-625-7900
Rhode IslandRhode Island Department of Labor and Training401-243-9100
South CarolinaSouth Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce1-866-831-1724
South DakotaSouth Dakota Department of Labor and Regulation605-626-3179
TennesseeTennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development1-877-813-0950
TexasTexas Workforce Commission1-800-939-6631
U.S. Virgin IslandsU.S. Virgin Islands Department of Labor340-773-1994
UtahUtah Department of Workforce ServicesSalt Lake and South Davis Counties:
Weber and North Davis Counties:
Utah County:
Other Counties and Out of State:
VermontVermont Department of Labor1-888-807-7072
VirginiaVirginia Employment Commission1-866-832-2363
WashingtonWashington Employment Security Department1-800-318-6022
West VirginiaWorkforce West Virginia1-800-379-1032
WisconsinWisconsin Department of Workforce Development1-844-910-3661
WyomingWyoming Department of Workforce Services307-473-3789

Unemployment benefits for ex-service members

The U.S. Department of Labor has a federal-state unemployment benefits program for ex-service members and former members of the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The benefits will vary state by state. Generally, to be eligible for this unemployment benefits program, you must:

  • Have been on active duty with a branch of the U.S. military.
  • Have been separated under honorable conditions.

In addition, there is no payroll deduction of your wages for unemployment insurance protection. Your benefits will be paid for by the various branches of the military or NOAA.

Unemployment benefits for federal employees

If you were a federal employee, the Unemployment Compensation for Federal Employees is a program that provides unemployment benefits for eligible unemployed former civilian federal employees.

Disaster unemployment assistance

If you’re unemployed directly due to a major disaster declared by the President of the United States, the Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA) is available to provide financial relief. It’s specifically made for people whose employment or self-employment has been affected or interrupted by a disaster and are not eligible for regular unemployment benefits.

Should there be a disaster, the affected state will announce the availability of DUA and anyone affected should contact their state’s unemployment agency.

Key take-aways

Life is unpredictable. If you find yourself unemployed, whether it was because you were laid off or due to a disaster, know that you’re not alone and there are resources available to help you. Unemployment benefits stabilize you until you find your footing again, so take a deep breath and reach out to your state’s unemployment agency.

We’re here once you’re ready to take the next step and begin your job search. We have resume templates and cover letter templates you can use to put together a perfect job application.

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How to File for Unemployement Benefits

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