Unemployment Resources: The Ultimate Guide
The U.S. Department of Labor has unemployment insurance programs that provide financial support to eligible workers who have become unemployed through no fault of their own.
This unemployment insurance comes from a joint state-federal program that gives cash benefits to workers who meet eligibility criteria. But who can claim for unemployment benefits and how does the system work?
State unemployment benefits
Each state has its own unemployment insurance with slightly different benefits and criteria for eligibility. However, all states follow the same guidelines as established by federal law. Check out our resources below to find out more about the differences in unemployment programs between states.
Contacting the unemployment office
Your state will have an unemployment office that should be able to give you detailed information about eligibility and how to apply for unemployment in your state. If you need to contact your local employment office, you can find each state's relevant department, phone number, and website below.
||AgencyAlabama Department of Labor
||AgencyAlaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development
||AgencyArizona Department of Economic Security
||AgencyArkansas Department of Workforce Services
||AgencyCalifornia Employment Development Department
||AgencyColorado Department of Labor and Employment
||AgencyConnecticut Department of Labor
||AgencyDelaware Department of Labor
||PhoneNew Castle County: 302-761-6576
Other Areas: 1-800-794-3032
||AgencyFlorida Department of Economic Opportunity
||AgencyGeorgia Department of Labor
||AgencyHawaii Department of Labor and Industrial Relations
||AgencyIdaho Department of Labor
||AgencyIllinois Department of Employment Security
||AgencyIndiana Department of Workforce Development
||AgencyIowa Workforce Development
||AgencyKansas Department of Labor
||AgencyKentucky Career Center Office of Unemployment Insurance
||AgencyLouisiana Workforce Commission
||AgencyMaine Department of Labor
||AgencyMaryland Department of Labor
||AgencyMassachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance
||AgencyMichigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity
||AgencyMinnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development
||PhoneTwin Cities Area: 651-296-3644
Greater Minnesota: 1-877-898-9090
||AgencyMississippi Department of Employment Security
||AgencyMissouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations
||AgencyMontana Department of Labor and Industry
||AgencyNebraska Department of Labor
||AgencyNevada Department of Employment Training and Rehabilitation
||PhoneNorthern Nevada: 775-684-0350
Southern Nevada: 702-486-0350
Rural Areas and Out of State Callers: 1-888-890-8211
||AgencyNew Hampshire Department of Employment Security
||AgencyNew Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development
||PhoneNorth New Jersey: 201-601-4100
Central New Jersey: 732-761-2020
South New Jersey: 856-507-2340
Out-of-state claims: 1-888-795-6672
||AgencyNew Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions
||AgencyNew York Department of Labor
||AgencyNorth Carolina Department of Commerce
||AgencyNorth Dakota Job Service
||AgencyOhio Department of Job and Family Services
||AgencyOklahoma Employment Security Commission
||AgencyOregon Employment Department
||AgencyPennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry
||AgencyRhode Island Department of Labor and Training
||AgencySouth Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce
||AgencySouth Dakota Department of Labor and Regulation
||AgencyTennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development
||AgencyTexas Workforce Commission
||AgencyUtah Department of Workforce Services
||PhoneSalt Lake and South Davis Counties: 801-526-4400
Weber and North Davis Counties: 801-612-0877
Utah County: 801-375-4067
Other Counties and Out of State: 1-888-848-0688
||AgencyVermont Department of Labor
||AgencyVirginia Employment Commission
||AgencyWashington Employment Security Department
||AgencyWorkforce West Virginia
||AgencyWisconsin Department of Workforce Development
||AgencyWyoming Department of Workforce Services
Source  How Do I File For Unemployment Insurance https://www.dol.gov/general/topic/unemployment-insurance
How to apply for unemployment benefits
To apply for unemployment benefits, you’ll need to make a claim with the unemployment insurance program in the state where you last worked. You can file a claim in person, by telephone or online, but this will depend on the state you’re filing with.
- As soon as possible after becoming unemployed, you should contact your state’s unemployment insurance program.
- Usually, you’ll need to make your claim in the state where you worked. If you live in a different state from where you worked, the unemployment agency where you live should be able to advise you on how to claim in a different state.
- Make sure to give accurate and complete information when filing your unemployment claim. You’ll need to include personal details like your address, dates regarding your former employment, and your social security number.
How long do unemployment benefits last?
In most states, workers are entitled to up to 26 weeks of unemployment benefits from the regular state-funded unemployment program. However, there are nine states that offer less time for those receiving these benefits, and two states which offer more time. These states are shown below:
||Time period of regular unemployment insurance
Source  Weeks of Unemployment Compensation https://www.cbpp.org/research/economy/how-many-weeks-of-unemployment-compensation-are-available
How much do you get with unemployment benefits?
The amount of unemployment insurance you can claim varies depending on which state you’re claiming from. Typically the maximum amount you can claim ranges between $200 and $900 per week. Take a look at the table below to see the full breakdown of maximum weekly unemployment benefits you can claim in each state.
Massachusetts currently offers the highest maximum unemployment benefits of $823 per week, with Mississippi offering the least at $235 per week.
||Maximum Weekly Benefit
Source  Unemployment Benefits By State https://worldpopulationreview.com/state-rankings/unemployment-benefits-by-state
Another thing to be aware of is that state laws in some states with a 26-week maximum use a sliding scale which is based on the individual’s earnings. This is used to work out the maximum number of weeks a worker qualifies for unemployment benefits. Aside from Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, New Hampshire, New York, West Virginia, and Puerto Rico, many UI recipients’ maximum is fewer than 26 weeks.
Eligibility requirements for unemployment benefits
Your eligibility for unemployment benefits depends on a number of factors, and these can vary depending on which state you’re in. But you’ll usually qualify if you meet the following criteria:
- You are unemployed by no fault of your own - In most states, this means you have been laid off or separated from your most recent job due to a lack of work being available for you.
- You meet the necessary work and wage requirements - During a specified period of time known as a ‘base period’ you must meet your state’s requirements for time worked or wages earned. Usually, this will be the first four out of the last five complete calendar quarters, prior to the time of your filing for unemployment.  How Do I File For Unemployment Insurance https://www.dol.gov/general/topic/unemployment-insurance
- You meet your state’s additional requirements - Some states have extra criteria you need to meet in order to file for unemployment insurance. Contact your local state unemployment agency to find out which requirements apply to you.
How do I know if I’m eligible for unemployment benefits?
When it comes to eligibility for unemployment insurance, employees must meet the following criteria in order to receive unemployment compensation:
- Be physically able to work
- Be available to start work immediately
- Be a U.S. citizen or provide proof of a legal right to work in the United States
- Have been employed for a certain period of time
- Have earned a certain amount in income before becoming unemployed
Every state’s rules vary slightly, but this is a general outline of the conditions. Part-time and temporary workers can also be eligible for unemployment insurance if they meet their state’s criteria.
What is eligibility determination for unemployment?
During the claim process for unemployment insurance, you will receive a Determination of Unemployment Compensation. This is a notice telling you the amount of benefit you will be entitled to weekly based on the wages your recent employers have reported.
- Monetary documents - The Determination of Unemployment Compensation is a monetary document, this means it contains official communications that relate to actual dollar amounts. Monetary documents will state: ‘This is not a guarantee of payment’.
- Non-monetary documents - These are official documents relating to the circumstances of your employment termination, as well as any severance or vacation pay you are owed. These also contain details about your eligibility to work and your efforts to find new employment. Non-monetary documents state: ‘This notice is a determination on eligibility for unemployment benefits.  How Do I Know if My Claim is Approved? https://www.nhes.nh.gov/media/video/documents/07-approved-script.pdf
If you meet all of the eligibility requirements in your non-monetary documents, payment for the weeks you have claimed will be released to you. Each term of eligibility will be dealt with in its own separate document. So you could be deemed eligible on one of the terms, but disqualified on another.
What is an eligibility review date for unemployment?
When collecting unemployment, the eligibility review date is the date that your claim will be reviewed by the unemployment office. This will be done to ensure that you are still eligible to receive the benefits and that your circumstances haven’t changed.
Across the U.S., fraud is a major concern when it comes to unemployment insurance. The state wants to make sure that your details are still correct, you have not received a new source of income and you’re making efforts to secure a new job.
Can you collect unemployment if you quit?
In most cases, if you choose to quit your job, you will not be entitled to claim unemployment benefits. However, the answer is complicated, and it really depends on the reason why you quit your job.
Unemployment benefits are available to workers who experience a sudden loss of income, usually due to being laid off. They are there to fill the gap in income between jobs and provide you with financial help until you find a new job. Remember, employment programs are dealt with by individual states, so where you live may affect your eligibility.
If you quit your job voluntarily, you usually won’t be eligible to claim these benefits. However, there are some acceptable reasons for quitting your job that may still allow you to claim unemployment support. These reasons will typically be assessed on a case-by-case basis to determine eligibility.
Reasons for quitting your job
People quit jobs for many reasons: lack of progression, unsociable hours, and lack of childcare are just a few examples. But these don’t fall under the legal requirement of a ‘good cause’ for quitting. If you’re wondering whether you can collect unemployment if you quit your job, in some circumstances, you can.
What to do when quitting your job
Deciding to leave your job can be daunting. You might wonder if you’re making the right decision or if it’s too risky to quit and lose your income.
If you are going to quit, it’s best to do it respectfully and go about it the right way. Here are some tips to follow to make quitting your job as painless as possible.
- Make sure you’re making the right decision - Think about why you want to leave your job and ask yourself whether there’s anything that could improve it. Perhaps speaking to your manager about what you don’t like or asking to change things could help. Ensure you’re not leaving because of something that could be easily fixed.
- Have a backup plan - Do you have another job lined up or a plan for what you’ll do when you leave? You don’t necessarily need to have everything figured out, but leaving a job with no prospects and no idea of how you’ll pay your bills is very risky. Try to at least have some emergency savings put away, enough to cover your essential costs for a few months.
- Write a formal letter - It’s best practice to give your boss a formal resignation letter when you decide to leave your job. This helps keep things professional and avoids uncertainty over how and when you’ll leave.
- Give your employer two weeks’ notice - Giving the correct amount of notice to your boss will ensure you leave on a positive note with no bad feelings. Leaving without notice could have a negative impact on your future job prospects so it’s best to avoid this.
- Show common courtesy - Try and help out with handing work over as much as you can before you leave to make your departure easier for your colleagues. If you work in an office job, make sure you clean your workspace and take any personal belongings with you.
Leaving a job can be a difficult process, especially if you’ve been in that position for a while. But trying to leave on a positive note is the best course of action if you’re looking to get yourself a good reference for future jobs.
Can you collect unemployment if you work part-time?
If you lose your full-time job and take on a part-time job, it might seem like you’d lose your eligibility for unemployment benefits, but this is not necessarily the case. You may still be able to receive unemployment support if you’re currently working part-time, or if you’ve lost your part-time job.
You’ll still need to qualify for unemployment insurance based on your employment history, and your eligibility for partial unemployment depends on your state.
Eligibility for partial unemployment
Unemployment benefits are available for workers who have experienced a sudden loss of income through no fault of their own, usually by being laid off.
However, the same can apply if your employer has given you reduced hours or you can only find part-time work when you need full-time work to pay your regular bills and expenses.
Partial unemployment benefits can encourage workers to remain in part-time work while they continue looking for new full-time work. These benefits may also be available for people who have lost their part-time job, depending on what state you’re in.
Qualifying criteria for partial unemployment
Typically, if you have chosen to scale back your hours due to personal or family reasons, you would no longer be eligible to claim partial unemployment. However, it’s a good idea to check with your local state labor office as some states have different criteria.
The general guidelines on criteria for claiming partial unemployment benefits are:
- In most states, the unemployment agency will provide partial benefits to workers who have had their hours reduced for a reason that was not their choice or fault. This could be because their company has restructured, been sold or gone into liquidation.
- Employees who have been put onto “zero-hour schedules” rather than being terminated are able to claim unemployment insurance in most cases.
- A lot of states will offer this support to workers who have lost a full-time income and partially replaced it with part-time work. In some states, the labor office will also cover workers who had multiple part-time jobs and have lost one of them.
As we mentioned earlier, it depends on whether your reduced hours were your choice or happened due to your own actions. If it wasn’t your choice or due to your actions, you should still be able to collect unemployment benefits.
Keeping track of what you earn
If you’re working a part-time job and claiming partial unemployment, you need to make sure you’re keeping track of how many hours you’re working. If you collect benefits that you aren’t entitled to based on how much you earn, this is classed as fraudulent and you could get into trouble for claiming benefits illegally.
To continue receiving partial unemployment insurance payments, you will also need to keep records of your search for full-time work. This is to show the unemployment agency that you are making a conscious effort to look for new work which meets your financial needs.
How are partial unemployment benefits calculated?
Usually, states will calculate how much you would be entitled to if you were completely unemployed, and then subtract the amount you’re earning per week through your part-time job.
Some states have different rules when it comes to calculating partial unemployment. The calculation will sometimes be adjusted based on how much you earn and how many hours you work per week.
Reasons to take a part-time job
Taking a part-time job while on unemployment insurance can have many benefits. It brings in some extra income, while it might not be as much as you got on your full-time job, you’ll probably earn more than you would by being on unemployment alone.
Having part-time work can also help in your job search. You’ll be learning new skills which may be in demand and developing experience that can improve your prospects with new employers. It will also help to reduce gaps on your resume, which gives you a better chance of finding a new job.
Can you collect unemployment after being fired?
The answer to whether you can collect unemployment after being fired depends on the reason why you were fired. Generally, unemployment benefits are available to workers who have lost their source of income due to a reason which wasn't their fault. For example, workers who are laid off because of economic reasons like a factory closure.
Usually, an employee who has been fired for serious misconduct will not be eligible to claim unemployment benefits. In most states, the employee’s behavior has to be pretty serious in order to make them ineligible for unemployment insurance.
If you have been fired because you’re not a good fit for the job, or you failed to meet the company’s expectations, this usually won’t affect your eligibility for a claim.
Reasons for being fired from a job
There are certain forms of misconduct that will make you ineligible for claiming unemployment benefits. Some of these include:
- Stealing from your place of work
- Violating safety protocols
- Sexual harassment
- Going to work intoxicated or failing a drug test
- Being abusive or causing harm to other employees
- An excess of unexcused absences
- Criminal behavior
- Violating company policy (in some cases)
- Extreme insubordination
- Sleeping on the job
Usually, if you’re fired for one of these reasons, you won’t be eligible to claim unemployment benefits in most states. This is not an exhaustive list and there may be more reasons that someone could be fired from a job which would make them ineligible to collect unemployment. Some states have slightly different rules, however, so it’s worth checking with your local unemployment office if you’re unsure.
Could an unemployment claim be contested?
When a fired employee makes a claim for unemployment, their previous employer will usually receive a document from the federal or state unemployment agency with details of their departure.
Employers do have the right to contest a claim for unemployment insurance by their previous employee if they believe it to be misleading or false. If an ex-employer chooses to contest a claim, they will need to have detailed documents and evidence to back up their contest. This should include:
- Documents relating to pay
- Official letter of termination
- Documentation of warnings to the employee
The employee in question is also within their rights to appeal the denial of their unemployment claim. So an employer looking to contest the claim will need to have a solid case in order to avoid a costly legal challenge.
Unemployment application disputes
The procedure for handling unemployment benefits disputes will vary slightly depending on your state. If an employer states that their employee was fired for serious misconduct and should not be eligible for an unemployment claim, there will be a hearing. This hearing will take place either in person or on the phone, where both parties can present their arguments.
If you’re an employee and your claim is being disputed, you’ll need to find out which reasons for being fired exclude you from claiming unemployment in your state. You’ll then need to present evidence that you weren’t fired for any of these reasons.
For example, you could have been fired from your job because you didn’t meet the company’s expectations but your employer claims you were fired for criminal behavior. You would be able to present your termination letter which states that the real reason was not meeting the company’s expectations.
Can you turn down a job offer if you’re collecting unemployment?
If you’re claiming unemployment, part of the agreement is that you make a conscious effort to look for a new job. So if a job comes along but it doesn’t feel like the right fit for you, do you have to take it?
Generally, failing to accept an offer of suitable work can be a reason for your unemployment benefits to be terminated. During the claims process, you will usually have to report back to the unemployment office about jobs you have applied for. As time goes on, you will have less flexibility over the jobs you choose to turn down.
What is classed as suitable work?
Suitable work is typically a job that offers similar wages to that of your last job, and duties that are in line with your skills, previous work experience, and education level.
Other factors also affect what is considered suitable work in different states. These include:
- Commuting time
- Length of time you have been unemployed
- Health and safety
- Primary and secondary skills
Some states will change the definition of suitable employment based on how long you have been unemployed. This means your options will be more limited the longer you collect unemployment insurance, or if you apply for extended unemployment benefits.
In California, suitable employment should be work that is related to your previous jobs and matches up with your primary skills and experience. California also takes into account the risk to the individual’s health, safety and morals, work experience, and prior earnings, along with your likelihood of getting a new job.  Suitable Work California https://www.edd.ca.gov/uibdg/Suitable_Work_SW_5.htm
New York defines suitable employment as any work which is related to your primary skills or your secondary skills and experience. As time goes on, the longer you are unemployed, the definition of suitable work changes. After a certain number of weeks, the definition expands to include any work you can do regardless of if you have any experience.  Unemployment FAQ New York https://dol.ny.gov/work-search-frequently-asked-questions
Speak to your unemployment office about job offers
The rules regarding turning down job offers while collecting unemployment benefits can change depending on where you live and how long you’ve been unemployed. If you’re unclear on the regulations, it’s best to speak to your local state unemployment office to determine what you can do based on your circumstances.
Disclaimer: All information in this article is correct as of July 2022 but is subject to change. Please check your state’s eligibility requirements and rules when applying for unemployment support.