Can You Collect Unemployment and Social Security?

By Michelle Lambright Black
Published on: 01/17/2024

In many cases, it is possible to collect unemployment benefits and Social Security income at the same time. So, if you’re receiving regular Social Security retirement benefits and you lose your job, you may still be eligible for unemployment compensation.

There are a few other scenarios where you might be able to collect both unemployment and Social Security benefits together. Yet it’s important to understand that there are rules to follow in each situation. Applying for unemployment and certain types of Social Security benefits at once might reduce your odds of qualifying for benefits. Here’s what you need to know.

What are unemployment benefits?

Unemployment benefits are a type of temporary financial compensation designed to help workers who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own. The goal of unemployment insurance is to provide temporary replacement for part of your wages while you look for a new job. However, if you quit your job or your employer fires you for misconduct, you probably won’t be eligible for this type of financial assistance from your state.

The amount of unemployment benefits you may receive (if you’re eligible) can also vary according to several factors, especially where you live. States use different methods to set unemployment benefits based on a percentage of your former income.[1]

Nationwide, the average weekly benefit amount in 2023 (Quarter 3) was $433 according to U.S. Department of Labor data. Weekly benefit amounts varied widely from state to state. Residents of Mississippi received an average of $221 per week in unemployment benefits in Q3 2023. Meanwhile, those receiving unemployment benefits in Washington state took home an average of $727 per week during the same period.[2]

Keep in mind that no matter how much you receive in unemployment payments, you can expect to pay taxes on your unemployment benefits. The length of time you can count on receiving unemployment benefits also varies depending on where you live. In most states, up to 26 weeks of unemployment benefits are available for eligible out-of-work residents. One state (Montana) provides more than 26 weeks of unemployment benefits and 13 states provide less.[3]

How to collect unemployment benefits

If you lose your job and need financial assistance, it’s important you know how to begin the process of collecting unemployment benefits while you search for new employment. Receiving unemployment benefits could help you manage your financial obligations and protect your credit score until you find a new job.

The federal government doesn’t sponsor a nationwide unemployment program. Instead, each state manages a separate unemployment insurance program and pays benefits to eligible recipients.[4]

You can look up specific details regarding how to file for unemployment benefits in your state at, a website sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor. Although the exact steps may vary, some of the basic requirements you may need to meet to collect unemployment benefits are as follows.

  • Search for a new job
  • Prove that you were employed consistently for the previous 12-24 month period
  • Verify that you earned a minimum amount of income over the past 12-24 months[4]

What are Social Security benefits?

American workers pay taxes into the Social Security system throughout their lives. These federal taxes help pay Social Security benefits to those who are eligible to receive them on a monthly basis.

Many people associate Social Security benefits with retirement. However, there are many people who may be eligible to receive Social Security payments each month including those who are:

  • Retired
  • Disabled
  • Dependents (aka children or spouses) of beneficiaries
  • Survivors of deceased workers[5]

If you’re eligible for Social Security benefits, the amount you receive each month can vary based on several factors. The maximum benefit a retired worker can receive (assuming that person waited until the full retirement age to claim their benefits) is $3,822 per month in 2024. Yet according to the Social Security Administration, the average benefit for retired workers in 2024 will be a much more modest amount of $1,907 per month.[6]

How to collect Social Security benefits

There are several ways to collect Social Security benefits, depending on the type of benefits you’re eligible to receive. Below is some basic information that may help you get started.

  • Disability Benefits: For Social Security disability benefits—Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)—you can apply online, via phone (800-722-1213), or visit your local Social Security office. It’s wise to review the Social Security Administration’s Disability Starter Kit before scheduling your disability interview or beginning your online application. The starter kit can help you discover the documents and information you should gather in advance so you can be as well prepared as possible. According to the Social Security Administration, the majority of disability claims are denied. So, you may also want to consider hiring a reputable attorney or advocate to represent you when you apply for disability benefits to have someone more knowledgeable working on your behalf.[7]
  • Retirement Benefits: You may be eligible to start receiving reduced Social Security retirement benefits as early as age 62. However, if you were born in 1960 or later you might want to wait until age 67 (aka full retirement age) to receive unreduced benefits. Whenever you’re eligible and ready to collect Social Security retirement benefits, you can begin the process with an online application or phone call (800-722-1213). It’s also a good idea to look up the documents you may need to provide to the Social Security Administration before you begin your application so you’re prepared in advance.[8]
  • Survivor Benefits: If you’re an eligible surviving spouse, surviving divorced spouse (who never remarried), unmarried child, or a dependent parent, you might be eligible for monthly survivor benefits based on the earnings of a deceased worker. You might also be entitled to a one-time death payment of $255 if you are a qualifying spouse or child. You can apply for survivor benefits via phone (800-722-1213) or by visiting your local Social Security office. No online applications are available for these benefits.[9]

Ways to collect social security

Collecting unemployment and Social Security at the same time

Although some Social Security benefits are considered to be retirement benefits, you don’t have to stop working to claim them. In fact, if you continue to work after you reach your full retirement age it could increase your monthly retirement benefit amount.[5]

If you get laid off from your job in this scenario, you might need to file for unemployment to make ends meet while you’re searching for a new job—especially if you don’t have an emergency fund or if you’re worried your savings will run out. However, if you’re already receiving Social Security benefits each month it’s normal to wonder how filing for unemployment benefits could affect you in this situation.

The good news is that Social Security does not consider unemployment benefits to be earnings. Therefore, receiving unemployment benefits will not have any impact on your retirement benefits.[10]

In the past, some states did reduce unemployment compensation for certain people who received Social Security benefits. This was known as a Social Security offset. However, consumer advocacy groups worked to see these laws repealed. According to AARP, the last state with a Social Security offset law, Minnesota, ended this practice in July 2022. Thanks to the change, you should now be able to collect unemployment benefits and Social Security retirement benefits at the same time without either payment impacting the other in a negative way.[11]

Social Security disability benefits and unemployment

Receiving Social Security disability benefits and unemployment compensation at the same time may be difficult to achieve. When you apply for unemployment benefits you must typically confirm that you lost your job but you’re actively seeking new employment. Filling out an application for disability benefits, on the other hand, requires confirmation that you’re unable to work. The two qualification requirements are at odds with each other.[12]

However, there’s at least one scenario where it might make sense to collect unemployment benefits at the same time you’re applying for Social Security disability benefits. If you’re let go from a job and don’t know if you can go back to work because of health challenges, filing for unemployment benefits may be able to help you make ends meet on a temporary basis while you wait to see if you can qualify for disability benefits.

But there’s a potential complication with this approach. Although collecting unemployment benefits won’t prevent you from qualifying for disability benefits, it might hurt your chances of approval. Some disability judges may deny your application for benefits if you’re collecting unemployment benefits. So, you need to be sure you’re comfortable with this risk before applying for unemployment if you plan to seek Social Security disability benefits as well.[13]

It’s also worth noting that there are two types of Social Security disability benefits—SSI and SSDI. With SSDI benefits, unemployment insurance has no impact on your benefit amount if you somehow qualify for both types of compensation. But if you qualify for unemployment and SSI benefits, your SSI would be suspended if you receive unemployment in any amount that exceeds the Federal Benefit Rate.[14]

Pensions and 401(k)

When you’re working, it’s important to save a portion of your paycheck each month for the future. But if you lose your job or you’re living on a fixed income in retirement, you may need to find other ways to make ends meet.

Before you start taking withdrawals from retirement accounts like pensions or 401(k)s, it’s important to understand how those financial moves could impact you if you’re also collecting unemployment or Social Security benefits. Depending on your state of residence, certain types of income could reduce your weekly unemployment benefit amount. Pension or 401(k) payments fall into this category. For example, a pension of $400 per month might lower your unemployment benefit by $100 per week.[15]

Payments from individual retirement accounts and pensions do not reduce the retirement benefits you receive from Social Security. The Social Security Administration doesn’t count these types of payments as earnings. But you may have to pay taxes on your Social Security benefit (or at least a portion of it) if your combined income from Social Security and other sources exceeds a certain amount.[16] [17]

Bottom line

Losing your job can be a stressful experience. Yet before you apply for government benefits, it’s important to do your own research, especially if you’re thinking about applying for multiple benefits at once. Talk to state and federal government agencies if you have questions and consider seeking professional guidance if you have a complicated situation.

Disclaimer: The information in this article is accurate as of 01/03/2024 and is subject to change as employment benefits and other figures are often reviewed and updated by the government.


  1. National Employment Law Project. “Benefit Amounts.”
  2. U.S. Department of Labor. “Regular Benefits Information by State for CYQ — 2023.3.”
  3. Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. “Policy Basics: How Many Weeks of Unemployment Compensation Are Available?”
  4. “Unemployment benefits.”
  5. Social Security Administration. “Understanding the Benefits.”
  6. Social Security Administration. “2024 Social Security Changes”
  7. Social Security Administration. “Outcomes of Applications for Disability Benefits.”
  8. Social Security Administration. “Retirement Age Calculator.”
  9. Social Security Administration. “Who is eligible to receive Social Security survivors benefits and how do I apply?”,your%20local%20Social%20Security%20office
  10. Social Security Administration. “Will unemployment benefits affect my Social Security benefits?”
  11. “Can I collect unemployment benefits and Social Security at the same time?”
  12. “Can a person receive both unemployment and SSDI?”,are%20actively%20looking%20for%20work
  13. “Can I Apply for Social Security Disability While Collecting Unemployment Benefits?”
  14. “Impact of Unemployment and Stimulus Payments on SSI/SSDI.”
  15. “Income that reduces or delays payment.”
  16. Social Security Administration. “Will withdrawals from my individual retirement account affect my Social Security benefits?”
  17. Social Security Administration. “Income Taxes and Your Social Security Benefit.”,your%20benefits%20may%20be%20taxable

About the author

Michelle Lambright Black is a nationally recognized credit expert with two decades of experience. She is the founder of, an online credit education resource and community that helps busy moms learn how to build good credit and a strong financial plan that they can leverage to their advantage. Michelle's work has been published thousands of times by FICO, Experian, Forbes, Bankrate, MarketWatch, Parents, U.S. News & World Report, and many other outlets. You can connect with Michelle on Twitter (@MichelleLBlack) and Instagram (@CreditWriter).

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Written on January 17, 2024
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