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If you’re one of the millions of Americans who find themselves out of work every year, remember you’re not alone, and you can get through it.¹ The reality is that it takes most people more than eight weeks to find a new job after they’re laid off.² 

Since unemployment benefits (sometimes called unemployment insurance) last for 12 to 26 weeks, job seekers have help to get back on their feet. Read on to learn how you can apply for unemployment benefits.

Who can apply for unemployment?

Anyone who legally held a job in the U.S. and recently lost it can apply for unemployment benefits in the state where they worked. But you’ll likely only receive benefits if you lost the job through no fault of your own and you’re actively searching for new work. That said, eligibility guidelines are different from state to state. 

Four illustrations accompany the four eligibility criteria for unemployment.

Here are a few criteria that you’ll have to meet in most states:

  • You recently worked in the state: To qualify for unemployment benefits, you have to have worked in the state where you’re filing – usually for one to two years – unless you were serving in the military or working for the federal government. 
  • You worked enough hours: You usually have to work between 500 and 700 hours during the base period (in most states, the base period includes the four most recent quarters in the last calendar year³) in the state where you’re applying for unemployment before you qualify for benefits. 
  • You lost your job through no fault of your own: This usually means you had to be laid off, quit for a covered reason like a hostile work environment or workers’ rights violations, or were discharged from the military. You probably won’t be eligible for unemployment benefits if you were fired for cause or were involved in a strike.4

You are actively searching for a new job: You can only get unemployment or reemployment benefits if you register with your state’s unemployment office and are looking for a new job. That means you also need to be legally and physically cleared for work.

What is the unemployment maximum by state?

Each U.S. state has different unemployment filing requirements and application processes. You’ll find those guidelines below, along with details about the maximum weekly amount each state can pay for unemployment and how long you can receive funding.

The government may temporarily raise the maximum amount if unemployment rates increase. Your state could also extend the length of time you can collect benefits in cases like these. 

Also, read your state’s qualification specifics to understand nuances like how much money you qualify for if you do or don’t have dependents.

StateMaximum weekly benefitMaximum term length
Alabama$27520 weeks
Alaska$37026 weeks
Arizona$32024 weeks
Arkansas$45125 weeks
California$45026 weeks
Colorado$78126 weeks
Connecticut$70326 weeks
Delaware$40026 weeks
Florida$27512 weeks
Georgia$36526 weeks
Hawaii$76326 weeks
Idaho$49926 weeks
Illinois$78726 weeks
Indiana$39026 weeks
Iowa$67616 weeks
Kansas$58926 weeks
Kentucky$66524 weeks
Louisiana$27526 weeks
Maine$53826 weeks
Maryland$43026 weeks
Massachusetts$1,01530 weeks
Michigan$36220 weeks
Minnesota$85726 weeks
Mississippi$23526 weeks
Missouri$32020 weeks
Montana$69828 weeks
Nebraska$51426 weeks
Nevada$46926 weeks
New Hampshire$42726 weeks
New Jersey$83026 weeks
New Mexico$54226 weeks
New York$50026 weeks
North Carolina$35012 weeks
North Dakota$64026 weeks
Ohio$75726 weeks
Oklahoma$53926 weeks
Oregon$81226 weeks
Pennsylvania$60526 weeks
Rhode Island$70526 weeks
South Carolina$32620 weeks
South Dakota$51426 weeks
Tennessee$27526 weeks
Texas$56326 weeks
Utah$71226 weeks
Vermont$70526 weeks
Virginia$37826 weeks
Washington$1,01926 weeks
West Virginia$63026 weeks
Wisconsin$37026 weeks
Wyoming$59526 weeks

Sources for each state’s maximum weekly benefit and term lengths can be found in disclosures 5 through 80.

What documents do you need to apply for unemployment benefits?

To apply for unemployment benefits, you need to have your Social Security number (SSN), driver’s license number, mailing address, list of past employers, and usually your bank account’s routing number. This information will help the government verify your identity, approve your unemployment application, and send payments on time.

  An illustration of a checklist on a clipboard accompanies a list of the information required to apply for unemployment.

Have the following documents available to avoid submission delays:

  • Birth certificate
  • Social Security card
  • W-2(s) (from the last one to two years)
  • Pay stubs
  • Bank statements

How to file for unemployment in 5 steps

Filing for unemployment can seem overwhelming if you haven’t done it before. Luckily, you can file online or over the phone in most cases. Processes vary by state, but in general, you can expect the unemployment filing process to include these steps:

An image of a woman working on her laptop accompanies a five-step list of how to apply for unemployment.

Step 1: Find your state’s application

When you’re ready to file for unemployment, visit your state’s official unemployment website to find the application and state-specific guidelines. Or, you can open your state’s link in the table above. 

Once you’re on the official unemployment webpage, look for words like “Apply for benefits,” “Apply online,” “File a claim,” “Unemployment benefits application,” or similar wording to open the application portal. 

Step 2: Fill out and send in the application

Once you find the correct application, you can fill it out. Double-check your application and correct mistakes like misspellings and incorrect dates before submitting. 

During this step, enter some or all of the following details:

  • Identifying information, like your full name, claimant ID, birth date, address, work authorization status, and Social Security number. 
  • Contact information, like your phone number and email address. 
  • Qualifications, like your education, work experience, training, licenses, and certifications. 
  • Work history, including where you worked, your position, earned wages, and time worked. 
  • Job loss information, like your reason for separation, current job if applicable, and plan to find a new job. 

Step 3: Wait for the state’s decision

Some states will approve your unemployment application in a few days, while others take weeks. File as soon as you lose your job to avoid cash flow interruptions. You can look into other resources like renter’s assistance, food banks, and nonprofit aid if you’re waiting for approval, your benefits run out, or your application is denied. 

  • If you’re approved, the next step is to get an unemployment debit card to access funds. 
  • If you aren’t approved, you can look into alternative aid or submit an appeal to the relevant office in your state. 

Step 4: Receive your unemployment funds

Most states deposit money on unemployment debit cards instead of mailing out checks. They work just like any other bank card, making it easy to buy essentials at the store, pay your bills, and withdraw cash from ATMs. The only difference is that they’re prepaid and don’t connect to your bank account. 

Often, states that don’t use prepaid unemployment cards will deposit the funds directly into your bank account. Some states offer both options. Either way, you’ll receive funds weekly unless there’s a delay, like a holiday or a missed unemployment certification.  

Step 5: Recertify weekly

Once you’re approved and receive your unemployment card, all you have to do is recertify every one to two weeks. If you don’t, the state may suspend your payments, and there might be legal consequences. 

Fortunately, recertifying is a simple process: 

  • Let the state know that you still haven’t found work, usually through the state website portal. 
  • Show proof that you’re looking for work – usually by submitting copies of applications, a job search log, or a list of hiring events you’ve gone to. 
  • Report income fluctuations from sources like freelance work or earnings from social media.
Set up direct deposit with Chime to get paid up to two days early.*

Keep your finances flexible while you're out of work

If you find yourself suddenly out of work, you may want to tighten your belt until your financial situation improves. Doing so will help ensure you can pay all of your bills on time and allow you to focus on finding a new job that suits your goals and needs. 

Read more to learn how to create a budget.

 

FAQs about unemployment

Still have questions about how unemployment works? Find answers below. 

Can I get unemployment if I’m still working? 

You can collect unemployment in many states if your employer reduces your hours to less than 30 per week. Remember, you won’t qualify for benefits if you earn over a certain amount and your state enforces an earning cap. 

Also, you will only receive partial unemployment benefits if you still have a job. 

Can I get unemployment if I was given a severance package? 

This depends on your state’s regulations. Most states will grant unemployment benefits if severance pay is a company policy. However, you may not qualify for unemployment if you negotiated the severance pay amount. 

If you are eligible, you may still have to wait before receiving funds. 

Will contract work impact my benefits? 

Yes, if you freelance or accept contract work, you must report that income during unemployment recertification. Your income can result in reduced benefits. 

Some states may also consider it an indicator that you’re unavailable for full-time work, which can disqualify you from receiving unemployment insurance. 

How can I avoid unemployment scams? 

Sometimes, scammers will attempt to trick job seekers into sharing private information by pretending to be a legitimate state unemployment office. Here are a few ways to identify and protect yourself against these scams:

  • Visit official government websites. In most cases, they will end in .gov
  • Never pay to file for unemployment. 
  • Don’t click links or texts in emails that claim your debit card was deactivated. 
  • Verify the sender’s contact information before replying.

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Opinions, advice, services, or other information or content expressed or contributed here by customers, users, or others, are those of the respective author(s) or contributor(s) and do not necessarily state or reflect those of The Bancorp Bank, N.A. and Stride Bank, N.A. (“Banks”). Banks are not responsible for the accuracy of any content provided by author(s) or contributor(s).

* Early access to direct deposit funds depends on the timing of the submission of the payment file from the payer. We generally make these funds available on the day the payment file is received, which may be up to 2 days earlier than the scheduled payment date.

1 Information from Zippia’s 20 MUST-KNOW LAYOFF STATISTICS [2023]: WHO’S BEING TERMINATED FROM THEIR JOBS as of 9/26/23: https://www.zippia.com/advice/layoff-statistics/

2 Information from Federal Reserve Bank’s Median Weeks Unemployed as of 9/26/2023: https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/UEMPMED

3 Information from Nolo’s Unemployment Compensation: Understanding the Base Period as of 9/26/23: https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/unemployment-compensation-understanding-base-period-32444.html

4 Information from The Century Foundation’s Unemployment and Strikes: What You Need to Know as of 10/3/23: https://tcf.org/content/commentary/unemployment-and-strikes-what-you-need-to-know/

5 Information from Alabama Department of Labor’s Claims and Benefits FAQ as of 9/15/23: https://labor.alabama.gov/uc/21-08%20Claims%20and%20Benefits.pdf

6 Information from Alabama Department of Labor’s Claims and Benefits FAQ as of 9/15/23: https://www.labor.alabama.gov/uc/ClaimsBenefitsFAQ_v2.pdf

7 Information from the Alaska Department of labor And Workforce Development’s Frequently Asked Questions About Unemployment Insurance (UI) Benefits as of 9/15/23: https://labor.alaska.gov/unemployment/faq.htm

8 Information from Alabama Department of Labor’s General information as of 9/15/2023: https://labor.alaska.gov/unemployment/documents/UI_General_Info_brochure.pdf

9 Information from Arizona Department of Economic Security’s Receiving Unemployment Insurance Benefits as of 9/15/2023

10 Information from Arizona Department of Economic Security’s Important Change to Arizona’s Unemployment Insurance Program - Effective July 1, 2022 as of 9/15/23: https://des.az.gov/services/employment/unemployment-individual/important-changes-july-1-2022

11 Information from Benefits.com’s The benefits you deserve, the knowledge you need as of 9/15/2023: https://benefits.com/

12 Information from California Employment Development Department’s Eligibility Requirements as of 9/15: https://edd.ca.gov/en/unemployment/eligibility/

13 Information from California Employment Development Department’s California Unemployment Benefit Programs as of 9/15/23: https://edd.ca.gov/siteassets/files/unemployment/pdf/benefit-flowchart.pdf

14 Information from Colorado Department of Labor and Employment’s FAQs as of 9/15/23: https://cdle.colorado.gov/unemployment/faqs

15 Information from Colorado Department of Labor and Employment’s Your Guide to Unemployment Benefits as of 9/15/23: https://cdle.colorado.gov/sites/cdle/files/YourGuidetoUnemploymentBenefits_1.pdf

16 Information from Connecticut Department of Labor’s Labor Market Information as of 9/15/23: https://www1.ctdol.state.ct.us/lmi/awiclaims2.asp

17 Information from Saving to Invest’s 2023 Maximum Weekly Unemployment Insurance Benefits And Weeks By State as of 9/15: https://savingtoinvest.com/maximum-weekly-unemployment-benefits-by-state/

18 Information from Connecticut Department of Labor’s Do I qualify for a second year of benefits? as of 9/15/2023: https://portal.ct.gov/dol/Knowledge-Base/Articles/UI---Claims-and-Eligibility/Do-I-qualify-for-a-second-year-of-benefits?language=en_US

19 Information from Deleware.gov’s Claimant FAQs as of 9.15: https://labor.delaware.gov/divisions/unemployment-insurance/claimant-faqs/

20 Information from Florida Department of Revenue’s Employer Guide to Reemployment Assistance Benefits as of 9/15/23: https://floridarevenue.com/forms_library/current/rt800001.pdf

21 Information from Center on Budget and Policy Priorities’ Policy Basics: How Many Weeks of Unemployment Compensation Are Available? as of 9/15/23: https://www.cbpp.org/research/economy/how-many-weeks-of-unemployment-compensation-are-available

22 Information from Georgia’s Department of Labor’s PUA (Pandemic Unemployment Assistance as of 9/15/23: https://dol.georgia.gov/gdol-covid-19-information

23 Information from State of Hawaii’s Unemployment Insurance as of 9/15/23: https://labor.hawaii.gov/ui/how-much-do-i-qualify-for-and-how-long-can-i-collect/https://labor.hawaii.gov/ui/tax-rate-schedule-and-weekly-benefit-amount/

24 Information from Idaho Department of Labor’s Monetary Eligibility Requirements as of 9/15/23: https://www.labor.idaho.gov/unemployment-benefits/monetary-eligibility/

25 Information from Ascend’s Idaho Unemployment Calculator: Estimate Your Weekly Pay in 2023 as of 9/15/23: https://tryascend.com/unemployment/idaho/calculator

26 Information from Illinois Department of Employment Security’s Unemployment Insurance Information as of 9/15/23: https://ides.illinois.gov/unemployment/insurance.html

27 Information from Illinois Department of Employment Security’s Weekly Benefit Amounts as of 9/15/23: https://ides.illinois.gov/content/dam/soi/en/web/ides/ides_forms_and_publications/CLI110L.pdf

28 Information from Indiana Department of Workforce Development’s Unemployment Insurance FAQ as of 9/15/23: https://www.in.gov/dwd/indiana-unemployment/individuals/unemployment-insurance-faq/

29 Information from Indiana Department of Workforce Development’s File For Unemployment as of 9/15/23: https://www.in.gov/dwd/indiana-unemployment/file/

30 Information from Iowa Workforce Development’s Unemployment Insurance Frequently Asked Questions as of 9/15/23: https://www.iowaworkforcedevelopment.gov/unemployment-insurance-frequently-asked-questions

31 Information from Iowa Workforce Development’s Iowans’ Unemployment And Injury Benefits To Increase In July as of 9/15/23: https://www.iowaworkforcedevelopment.gov/iowans%E2%80%99-unemployment-and-injury-benefits-increase-july

32 Information from Kansas Department of Labor’s Unemployment FAQs as of 9/15/23: https://www.dol.ks.gov/-/unemployment-benefits-and-tax-information

33 Information from Kansas Department of Labor’s Unemployment Insurance Benefits Information Guide as of 9/15/23: https://www.getkansasbenefits.gov/Files/PDF/kbenp0950.pdf

34 Information from Kentucky Career Center’s Unemployment Insurance Benefits Calculator as of 9/15/23: https://kcc.ky.gov/Pages/Unemployment-Insurance-Benefits-Calculator.aspx

35 Information from Kentucky Career Center’s 2023 UI Changes as of 9/15/23: https://kcc.ky.gov/career/Pages/2023-UI-Changes.aspx

36 Information from Louisiana Workforce Commission’s Frequently Asked Questions From Claimants Concerning Benefits as of 9/15/23: https://www.laworks.net/faqs/faq_ui_claimantbenefits.asp

37 Information from Louisiana Workforce Commission’s Unemployment Benefits Rights and Responsibilities as of 9/15/23: https://www.laworks.net/Downloads/UI/UIBenefitRightsInformation.pdf

38 Information from Maine Department of Labor’s BUC - Claimants Frequently Asked Questions as of 9/15/23: https://www.maine.gov/unemployment/claimsfaq/

39 Information from Benefits.gov’s Maine Unemployment Insurance as of 9/15: https://www.benefits.gov/benefit/1726

40 Information from Maryland Department of Labor’s Unemployment Insurance in Maryland as of 9/15/23: https://www.dllr.state.md.us/employment/clmtguide/uiclmtpamphlet.pdf

41 Information from Mass.gov’s How your unemployment benefits are determined as of 9/15/23: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/how-your-unemployment-benefits-are-determined

42 Information from State of Michigan’s Labor and Economic Opportunity Eligibility Requirements as of 9/15/23: https://www.michigan.gov/leo/bureaus-agencies/uia/tools/publications/eligibility-requirements

43 Information from Minnesota’s Unemployment Insurance’s Information Handbook as of 9/15/23: https://www.uimn.org/applicants/howapply/info-handbook/after-you-apply.jsp

44 Information from Minnesota House of Representatives’ Unemployment Benefit Extensions and Supplemental Benefits in Minnesota as of 9/15/23: https://www.house.mn.gov/hrd/pubs/ss/ssubext.pdf

45 Information from Mississippi Department of Employment Security’s Unemployment as of 9/15/23: https://mdes.ms.gov/unemployment-faqs

46 Information from Missouri Department of Labor’s How are my benefits figured? as of 9/15/23: https://laboranswers.mo.gov/hc/en-us/articles/4403609880471-How-are-my-benefits-figured

47 Information from Official Missouri State Website’s File for Unemployment Benefits as of 9/15/23: https://www.mo.gov/work/unemployment/

48 Information from Montana Department of Labor and Industry’s Benefits Estimator as of 9/15/23: https://uid.dli.mt.gov/claimants/benefits-estimator

49 Information from Official Nebraska Government Website’s NEworks as of 9/15/23: https://neworks.nebraska.gov/vosnet/

50 Information from Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation’s Nevada Unemployment Insurance Facts for Claimants as of 9/15/23: https://ui.nv.gov/PDFS/UI_Claimants_Handbook.pdf

51 Information from Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation’s Unemployment Insurance Nevada (UINV) as of 9/15/23: https://ui.nv.gov/

52 Information from FileUnemployment.org’s New Hampshire Unemployment Benefits as of 9/15/23: https://fileunemployment.org/new-hampshire

53 Information from Official Site Of The State of New Jersey’s Division of Unemployment Insurance as of 9/15/23: https://www.nj.gov/labor/myunemployment/before/about/calculator/

54 Information from LegalConsumer’s New York Unemployment Law as of 9/15/23: https://www.legalconsumer.com/unemploymentlaw/

55 Information from Nolo’s Collecting Unemployment Benefits in New Mexico as of 9/15/23: https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/collecting-unemployment-benefits-new-mexico.html

56 Information from Access NYC’s Payments for eligible unemployed adults as of 9/15: https://access.nyc.gov/programs/nys-unemployment-insurance/

57 Information from NC Department of Commerce’s Am I Eligible for Unemployment as of 9/15/23: https://www.des.nc.gov/individuals/apply-unemployment/am-i-eligible-unemployment

58 Information from Benefits.com North Dakota Unemployment as of 9/15/23: https://benefits.com/unemployment/north-dakota-unemployment/

59 Information from FileUnemployment.org’s Ohio Unemployment Benefits as of 9/15/23: https://fileunemployment.org/ohio

60 Information from FileUnemployment.org’s Oklahoma Unemployment Calculator as of 9/15/23: https://fileunemployment.org/oklahoma/ok-calculator

61 Information from Oregon.gov’s Employment Department Announces Weekly Benefit Amounts for Unemployment Insurance and Paid Leave Oregon as of 9/15/23: https://www.oregon.gov/employ/Agency/Archived%20News%20Releases/2023-June01-Press-Release-2023-Minimum-and-Maximum-Weekly-Benefit-Amounts-1.pdf

62 Information from Oregon.gov Section 1: Filing for Benefits as of 9/15: https://www.oregon.gov/Employ/Unemployment/Claimant_Handbook/Pages/Section-1-Filing-for-Benefits.aspx

63 Information from Office of Unemployment Compensation’s Weekly Benefit Rate FAQs as of 9/15/23: https://www.uc.pa.gov/faq/claimant/pages/weekly-benefit-rate-faqs.aspx

64 Information from Office of Unemployment Compensation’s Filing for Unemployment Compensation FAQs as of 9/15/23: https://www.uc.pa.gov/faq/claimant/pages/filing%20for%20unemployment%20compensation%20faqs.aspx

65 Information from State of Rhode Island Depart of Labor and Training’s Maximum Weekly Benefit Amounts for Unemployment and Temporary Disability Insurance to Increase in July as of 9/15/23: https://dlt.ri.gov/press-releases/maximum-weekly-benefit-amounts-unemployment-and-temporary-disability-insurance-0

66 Information from State of Rhode Island Depart of Labor and Training’s Unemployment Insurance FAQ as of 9/15/23: https://dlt.ri.gov/individuals/unemployment-insurance/unemployment-insurance-faq

67 Information from South Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce’s Benefit Amount as of 9/15/23: https://dew.sc.gov/individuals/how-unemployment-insurance-works/weekly-benefit-amount

68 Information from South Dakota Dept. of Labor and Regulation’s Reemployment Assistance Benefits as of 9/15/23: https://dlr.sd.gov/ra/individuals/file_claim.aspx

69 Information from Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce’s Unemployment Insurance Benefits in Tennessee as of 9/15/23: https://www.tn.gov/workforce/unemployment.html

70 Information from Texas Workforce Commission’s Eligibility and Benefit Amounts as of 9/15/23: https://www.twc.texas.gov/jobseekers/eligibility-benefit-amounts

71 Information from Texas Workforce Commission’s Unemployment Benefits Services as of 9/15/23: https://www.twc.texas.gov/jobseekers/unemployment-benefits-services

72 Information from Workforce Services Unemployment Insurance’s Frequently Asked Questions as of 9/15/23: https://jobs.utah.gov/ui/FAQ.html

73 Information from Workforce Services Unemployment Insurance’s Unemployment Insurance Benefits (UI) as of 9/15/23: https://jobs.utah.gov/ui/home

74 Information from State of Vermont Department of Labor’s Calculating Your UI Benefits as of 9/15/23: https://labor.vermont.gov/unemployment-insurance/ui-claimants/calculating-your-ui-benefits

75 Information from Virginia Employment Commission’s FAQ’s - General Unemployment Insurance as of 9/15/23: https://www.vec.virginia.gov/faqs/general-unemployment-insurance-questions

76 Information from Washington State Employment Security Department’s Estimate your benefit as of 9/15/23: https://esd.wa.gov/unemployment/calculate-your-benefit

77 Information from Washington State Employment Security Department’s Frequently asked questions (FAQ) on UI benefits as of 9/15/23: https://esd.wa.gov/unemployment/eligibility-and-general-questions

78 Information from Ascend’s West Virginia Unemployment Calculator: Estimate Your Weekly Pay in 2023 as of 9/15/23: https://tryascend.com/unemployment/west-virginia/calculator

79 Information from Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development’s Serving Job Seekers, Businesses, and Employees as of 9/15/23: https://dwd.wisconsin.gov/

80 Information from Wyoming Workforce Services’ Unemployment Insurance as of 9/15/23: https://dws.wyo.gov/dws-division/unemployment-insurance/faq/

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