Qualifying for Unemployment

Mary Gormandy White
There are many causes of unemployment
There are many causes of unemployment

You may be wondering what is involved in qualifying for unemployment. Learn more about the criteria used to determine benefits eligibility so you will know what to expect when requesting this type of assistance.

About Qualifying for Unemployment

If you have lost your job, then you may be eligible to receive unemployment benefits for a period of time while you are looking for a new job. Whether or not you are eligible to receive benefits will depend on a variety of factors. While the requirements are somewhat similar from one state to another, each state has specific regulations regarding the criteria for qualifying for unemployment. To determine the exact criteria that apply to your claim, visit the website for the Department of Industrial Relations or the Department of Labor for the state where you will be applying.

Typical Criteria for Unemployment Qualification

In order to qualify for unemployment benefits, you must have held a position in which your employer withheld unemployment benefits on your behalf prior to becoming unemployed. You must also be available to work.

Eligible Employment

If you were classified as an employee and your employer paid into the state unemployment system, then it is likely that your job meets the criteria for being a covered position. However, if you were self-employed, working as a freelancer or an independent contractor, then you will not be eligible to receive unemployment benefits.

Sufficient Wage Earnings

In addition to verifying that your prior employment was in a covered position, the amount of money that you earned prior to losing your job will also influence whether or not you are eligible for unemployment. A determination will be made regarding whether or not your wages were sufficient to qualify for benefits during a particular time frame preceding your claim. This period of time, referred to as the base period, typically refers to the four calendar quarters immediately preceding the quarter in which an individual files a claim for unemployment benefits. The specific dollar amount required and the time frame in which the money must have been earned, are set on a state by state basis.

Reason for Termination

When you apply for unemployment, you will be asked to provide the reason why you are no longer employed. Before benefits are awarded, your former employer will be contacted to verify the reason you gave. In order to qualify, you must not have lost your job as the result of your own actions. If you voluntarily quit your position or if you were fired for misconduct, then you will not be considered eligible for benefits. If your job loss is the result of your position being eliminated, such as the company choosing to downsize or outsource, a plant closing, or some other reason that is not of your own doing, then you will meet this criteria for benefits qualification.

Currently Seeking Employment

Once it is determined that you are qualified to receive unemployment benefits, you will be required to periodically provide information to the agency that regulates unemployment in your state about the steps you are taking to find work. You must be actively seeking a job in order to continue receiving benefits during the time you are drawing unemployment.

Some states require you to submit documentation about where you have submitted applications each week, while others do not require the information to be submitted as often. Additionally, some states require unemployment recipients to register with a centralized job bank. If offered suitable employment, you will be required to accept the job or risk forfeiting your unemployment benefits.

Getting Your Answer

If you lose your job, you should immediately investigate the procedure for qualifying and filing for benefits in the state where you live or worked. If it seems that you are likely to meet the criteria for approval of unemployment benefits, then make your application right away. Most states allow individuals to complete online applications for benefits, as well as providing opportunities to apply in-person at local One Stop Career Centers in cities and towns throughout the United States.

Qualifying for Unemployment