Tech & Work

Know the facts about unemployment benefits

At some point in your life, you may find yourself unemployed. Though your head may be spinning with the fallout, one of the first things you need to do is to see if you're qualified for unemployment benefits.

Here are some things you need to know about unemployment benefits:

  • Each State administers a separate unemployment insurance program within guidelines established by Federal law.
  • Unemployment compensation is funded by employer contributions. To collect, workers must file a claim and prove they're entitled to payments. This means that they are unemployed "through no fault of their own" (as determined under the laws of their state.)
  • You must meet the State requirements for wages earned or time worked during an established (one year) period of time referred to as a "base period."
  • Your eligibility is determined on a case-by-case basis. In some states, you have to be laid off or fired in order to be eligible for benefits. In others, you may be able to collect even if you quit your job. In states that allow the latter, there may be a waiting period before your compensation begins.
  • You must file for unemployment where you live, not where you worked
  • Your payments are based on your salary, but there is a cap on how much you can receive. In many states, the compensation will be half you earnings.
  • If you received a severance from your last place of employment, you may not be eligible for unemployment benefits. Or, if you are, the benefits may be prorated, depending on if you are receiving your severance in a lump sum or in payments over a period of time.
  • Regular benefits are paid for a maximum of 26 weeks in most states, although some workers may be eligible for 13 weeks of extended benefits.
  • The state will require that you actively seek work while you collect your unemployment benefits. You must be ready, willing, available, and able to work.
  • Benefits are subject to Federal income taxes and must be reported on your Federal income tax return.


Toni Bowers is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.


Note that your submission must be for technology-related content. Also, please note that the editors reserve the right to decline your submission as well as to edit and post on any content they accept. In addition, readers may rate and comment on posted articles. By submitting your content, you agree to these terms.


In his recent Sanity check, he seemed to think we wouldn't face this kind of thing since the future is so bright for IT workers. Having been unemployed for several long stretches over the past 7 years, I agree that it is important to know how unemployment compensation works in your state and what you will receive from it if you have to use it. In my state, it's about minimum wage. Because the payout was so low I found it better to opt out of it and instead sell stuff on eBay, write MySpace and eBay templates, do some affiliate marketing, and do other short term free lance work. While this work didn't make as much as my salary did, it was substantially more than what unemployment paid. Another key was to have a financial buffer set aside. I recommend that anyone working in IT try to have a 6 month's income savings buffer to protect themselves from the instability of this industry.

Editor's Picks