Unemployment Amount Calculation
This page provides answers to the following questions:
8. Where can I find more information?
The amount of UI benefits you are eligible to receive depends on your prior earnings during a twelve month “base period.” States calculate benefit amounts differently. The most common methods are:
a straight proportion of one’s total wages during the base period, or a proportion of one’s total wages during the highest three-month period (“quarter”) in the base period.
Each state has a minimum and maximum weekly benefit–ranging from $5 in Hawaii to $762 in Massachusetts. It is important to review the history of your earnings in order to ensure that your benefit rate is accurate. For information on your state, click on your state in the map below.
Some states allow eligibility under an “alternate base period” (ABP), which includes more recent earnings than the regular base period. This is especially helpful for people who were not employed throughout the previous year and a half or who began earning more income at the end of their employment. As a result of the ABP, you may be found eligible when previously ineligible, or your benefit rate may increase significantly. Some states do not automatically evaluate eligibility under the ABP, so it is important to ask about it or to request evaluation under the ABP.
States vary on this as well. Nine states automatically provide up to 26 weeks of benefits (or the equivalent) for every individual that is eligible for UI benefits. Other states calculate a maximum amount of benefits that one may receive based on work history, up to a maximum of 26 weeks (30 weeks in Massachusetts and Washington) at the benefit rate. Those who receive benefits while working part-time may be eligible for an equivalent amount of benefits spread out over a longer period of time (52 weeks at 50% of the weekly benefit rate).
The duration of benefits is for a single benefit year. At the end of the year, one may be eligible to receive benefits for a subsequent benefit year based on earnings that were not already used to qualify for benefits in the prior year.
3. When I left my job, I was given a severance package. Will this affect the amount of my UI benefits?
Severance benefits may or may not make you ineligible or affect the amount of your benefits: the rules vary from state to state.
If you received severance pay from your employer, the severance is often considered income and may offset any unemployment compensation to which you are entitled. Salary continuation, when you stay on the payroll for a certain number of weeks after you stop working for the company, will usually make you ineligible for unemployment for as long as the employer continues to pay your salary.
If your employer pays you severance all at once in a “lump sum,” you may or may not be entitled to unemployment benefits. If the lump sum is just an upfront payment of a number of weeks of your pay, the agency may treat the payment like salary continuation. You will be ineligible for benefits for the number of weeks of severance you received.
You should apply for unemployment compensation even if you are receiving severance. You should begin the paperwork immediately. When and if your severance runs out before you find another position, you can simply send in a request for compensation and the original administrative steps that you took will speed up the process of payment.
4. I collect a pension from a prior job (not the one from which I was recently unemployed). Will this affect the amount of my UI benefits?
If you are actively ready, willing, and able to work, you may still be eligible for UI benefits. Rules vary from state to state. Often, the value of the pension will offset to some extent the amount of UI benefits you can receive. Of course, if you are truly retired and not looking for work, you are not eligible for UI.
It is important to truthfully report all information provided to your state UI administrator. Giving inaccurate information as part of the application or during the ongoing eligibility process may result in forfeiting the right to receive benefits and/or being required to repay benefits already received. States also criminally prosecute unemployment insurance fraud. If it is determined that you have been paid benefits that you weren’t eligible for, you have the right to appeal that determination. You should also inquire about establishing a repayment plan.
Most states actively police UI fraud and are more concerned about fraud by workers than by employers. UI agencies punish those who make intentional false statements by forcing them to repay benefits and to forego future eligibility for UI benefits. Even innocent misstatements regarding your UI benefits may result in having to repay benefits that were paid to you after the fact.
UI benefits are generally based on prior earnings. Some employers incorrectly report (or fail to report altogether) wages either inadvertently or to pay lower taxes. Soon after you apply for benefits, you should receive a statement of your earnings. Review it closely and notify the state if it is incorrect. You may be eligible for higher UI benefits.
Some states do offer an “Extended Benefits” program that can provide between 7 and 13 additional weeks of unemployment insurance benefits (after regular unemployment insurance has been exhausted) during a period of particularly high unemployment within a state. The extension for each person can vary however, resulting in extensions of less than 13 weeks or more than 20 weeks. Trade Readjustment Allowances and Disaster Unemployment Assistance do not need to be exhausted before Extended Benefits can be received.
The Extended Benefits program continues the regular amount of unemployment insurance that you currently receive, but all those who receive unemployment benefits are not automatically eligible for extended benefits. Those receiving unemployment insurance benefits will be notified if their state enters a period when Extended Benefits are available.
8. Where can I find more information?
At our site’s listing of state government agencies, you can find the contact information and web links for the agency in your state which oversees the unemployment compensation program in order to obtain further information about the laws in your state concerning unemployment benefits.
Select your state from the map below or from this list.