How to Calculate Your Unemployment Benefits

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How much does unemployment pay? How can you calculate your unemployment compensation to determine how much you will receive and how long you will collect benefits for? Is there a way to figure out how much unemployment you will get?

Unfortunately, there's no easy way unless your state has an online unemployment calculator. That's because each state has a different unemployment rate, and benefits vary based on your earnings record.

Your benefits also vary based on the date you became unemployed.

Read below for information on whether you are eligible for unemployment, how to find out how much unemployment you will receive, and how to calculate your benefits.

Are You Eligible for Unemployment?

It is important to first make sure that you are eligible for unemployment. While it varies based on your state, you generally need two things to qualify. First, you need to have lost your job through no fault of your own. This typically means you are ineligible if you quit (although there are exceptions, like if you quit because of impossible work conditions). If you are fired for cause, you also are likely ineligible. 

You also have to have been employed for a minimum amount of time, and/or have earned a minimum compensation. Read here for more information on how long you have to work to collect unemployment benefits.

Once you find out whether or not you are eligible, you can file a claim for unemployment benefits.

If you're not sure about your eligibility check with your state unemployment office. You don't want to lose out on unemployment compensation because you didn't think you would qualify. Here is more information on how to file for unemployment.

How Much Will Your Unemployment Check Be?

Once you file for unemployment and are approved, you will begin to receive benefits.

Your benefits might come in the form of a check, but more often they will come in the form of a debit card or direct deposit to your bank account. The form varies based on your state. You can typically file weekly online, by email, or by phone.

The amount you receive depends on your weekly earnings prior to being laid-off and on the maximum amount of unemployment benefits paid to each worker. In many states, you will be compensated for half of your earnings, up to a certain maximum.

Benefits are usually paid for a maximum of 26 weeks. Some states provide benefits for a lower number of weeks, and maximum benefits also vary based upon where you live. Regardless of how much you make, you can never collect more than the state maximum.

Most states pay benefits on a weekly or biweekly basis. There may be a lag before you receive your first check. For details on when to expect payment, check the unemployment website for your state.

Finding a Benefits Calculator

There are two types of unemployment calculators: one that tells you how much money you are entitled to collect, and another that tells you how many weeks you will collect unemployment for.

New York, for example, has a UI Benefits Calculator where you can enter the starting date of your original claim to find how many weeks of UI (Regular Unemployment Insurance Benefits) you will receive.

Wisconsin, as an example of the other type of calculator, has a Weekly Benefit Rate Calculator that will help you figure out the amount of your unemployment benefits.

Check with your state unemployment office website to see if they have any information that might help.  If there's one available you can usually find a calculator on the FAQ section of their website. If they don't have a calculator, they may have a chart that lists weeks of eligibility. You can use that information to determine how many weeks of unemployment you are entitled to collect.

If you are struggling to find information on your state unemployment office website, you could visit the office in person or contact the office via phone or email. You can usually get information about the location of the office, the phone number, and any email addresses under the “Contact Us” section of the unemployment office website.

However, it is often hard to get through to an unemployment office over the phone. Most offices encourage you to file claims and calculate benefits online.

Maximum Unemployment Benefits

Don't be surprised if you get less unemployment than you expect. Benefits are paid for a maximum of 26 weeks in most states. In addition, when a state's unemployment rate drops, the number of weeks of benefits claimants can collect drops accordingly.

Avoid Unemployment Calculator Scams

There are websites that say they will figure out your unemployment benefits or file a claim for you. However, the only place you can get a definitive answer or file for benefits is on your state unemployment website. Avoid getting scammed, and do not give personal information to a third party website. Here's how to avoid unemployment scams.

More About Collecting Unemployment: How to Apply for Unemployment Benefits | How to Claim Unemployment Benefits