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How to Apply for Unemployment

Updated on September 16, 2015

How to Apply for Unemployment

Do you want to know how to apply for unemployment? Applying for unemployment is often imperative for families to live on until another job can be found. Unemployment insurance programs first originated in 1932. The state of Wisconsin is often credited for the initiative. The entire 50 states of the USA, including Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia, have programs set up to help individuals through hardship times. Generally around six months of compensation is given to individuals whose applications are accepted by his or her state unemployment office. However, when unemployment conditions are unfavorable, the Federal Government will issue unemployment extensions to give people more time to obtain a job.

Did you know that an unemployment extension is granted per the Social Security Acts? If states run low on funds that are to be disbursed, the federal government will lend money to states in time of need. 

Benefits You Will Receive after Applying for Unemployment and Eligibility is Granted

Benefits are determined by a formula that takes an individual’s earnings and the number of yearly quarters to derive how long unemployment insurance will last and what amount. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, unemployment benefits are generally between 35 and 40 percent of the person’s average weekly pay of his or her previous job that was lost.

Universal Conditions of Receiving Unemployment Insurance

Individuals seeking unemployment benefits cannot seek out insurance if he or she was been fired due to fault. Applications will be rejected. The system is setup for those who have lost their jobs at no fault. Generally layoffs are preferred; however, wrongful termination may also be eligible for benefits. A hearing may be requested if an application is denied for the reason of being fired. The individual is then required to prove that he or she was wrongfully terminated in front of a hearing officer assigned to the case. 

Need to know how to apply for unemployment? You do it through the state that you reside in. You will then need to prove that you are seeking employment after you start receiving benefits. Image courtesy of siaoundio/
Need to know how to apply for unemployment? You do it through the state that you reside in. You will then need to prove that you are seeking employment after you start receiving benefits. Image courtesy of siaoundio/


Decide if you want to apply online, over the telephone or in person. State agencies have made applying for unemployment much easier over the years for individuals.

Click here: The State Unemployment Handbook for a listing of all states and district web addresses to find your state URL.

Locate your state URL and then read the instructions for the method that you choose to apply for unemployment. States will provide an overview and step by step directions on how to use your method of choice.

Gather all pay stubs and your previous income tax statements. Write down your employer or employers’ business names and addresses. Add the dates of when you started each job and when you were laid off or fired.

Fill out the application and submit as soon as possible. You will be required to go through a “waiting week.” It is also important to apply for unemployment as soon as possible in case of delays or an initial denial of your application.

After Being Accepted to Collect Unemployment Benefits

If you are accepted, you will be required to show proof that you are looking for a job. For proof, you may be required to go to job fairs or receive signatures from companies that you have applied for a position or went on an interview.  

You will also have to call in or use an internet form to file a claim either weekly or biweekly. If you fail to file a claim per your state instructions, you may lose your eligibility. Follow the packet instructions that come with your acceptance for proper biweekly or weekly filing.

Expect that it can take two weeks or longer before you receive your benefits. If more than two weeks have elapsed then call your state’s regional Unemployment agency office that is close to where you reside.


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