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You are Here: Home > Articles > Unemployment Benefits - 2

Unemployment Benefits

Unemployment benefits typically include weekly pay, job training, job-searching assistance and more. But unemployment pay is probably what you're most interested in for now, so that's what this page is about.

Unemployment Pay

Unemployment pay varies widely by state and typically depends on how much a worker earned during his or her base period.

To calculate the amount of unemployment pay to which workers are entitled, states use different methods.

For example, some look at the highest quarterly earnings workers earned during their base periods, while some calculate average worker earnings throughout base periods. Others just pay a percentage of the total workers earned during their base periods, up to the maximum unemployment pay allowable.

All states have maximum amounts they'll pay, no matter how high the earnings of eligible workers were prior to applying for benefits. To be eligible for the minimum unemployment pay, workers must have earned at least a predetermined amount during their base periods.

In any case, unemployment pay is not very much, relatively speaking. While it's certainly better than nothing, it's typically less than a worker's employment pay; worse, it's taxable. (In its infinite wisdom, the IRS continues to tax you, just when you need money the most.) Unemployment pay is designed only to help you through a temporary job loss or significant reduction in work hours, not to replace your employment pay.

For example, at this writing, the maximum California unemployment pay per claim is $11,700 divided into 26 weekly checks of $450 each. Californians who qualify for only the minimum unemployment pay receive $1,040 divided into 26 weekly checks of a mere $40 each.

To qualify for unemployment pay, California claimants must have earned at least $1,300 in the highest quarter during their base periods. Alternately, they must have earned at least $900 in the highest quarter and a total of $1,125 in their base periods.

California unemployment pay is among the highest at this writing. By comparison, New York pays up to $405 per week while Mississippi pays up to only $235.

Regardless of the amount of unemployment pay per check, 26 full paychecks is the typical maximum across all states (except when extended unemployment benefits come into play). But many states allow workers to collect checks over a 52-week period, called the benefit year. In other words, under certain circumstances, you probably may turn your 26 weeks of benefits "off and on" over the course of your benefit year.

For example, if you land a full-time job before receiving all 26 paychecks, but you unluckily get laid off again soon after, then you likely may reopen your initial claim and resume collecting checks, until you've received all 26 within your benefit year. You might also be eligible to continue collecting full or partial unemployment pay, if you land odd jobs that don't pay well and you work them less than 40 hours a week.

Again, all of this varies by state and is also subject to change after this writing. These are just examples. To research the particulars of unemployment pay in your work state, browse the Web site of the unemployment office.

Next Page > Applying for Unemployment Benefits
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