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U.S. Unemployment Benefits: who is elegible and how to apply

You have just lost your job and your main concern is to find another one quickly. However, it may be necessary to take a moment to think about the direction you want to give to your future. Unemployment benefits can help you find a solution for this!

The unemployment insurance program was created in the 1930s and is characterized by two levels of governance: State and Federal.

In fact, there are 53 different unemployment insurance programs in the US: one for each of the 50 states, plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. States have considerable autonomy in determining the main parameters of compensation:

  • - Amount of compensation

  • - Duration of compensation

  • - Setting contribution rates

Unemployment insurance programs are managed by rules set by the US Department of Labor (DOL), but at the state level, it is managed by an agency called the “State Workforce Agency”. Each of the states is responsible for:

  • - The operation of the benefit system

  • - The collection of contributions from employers

  • - Checking the eligibility of beneficiaries and paying benefits

How to apply for unemployment benefits in the United States


The unemployment insurance program is financed by:

1) The State Unemployment Tax Act, also known as SUTA:

These are the state contributions that pay 2 levels of compensations: the Standard and 50% of the Extended Benefits (EB).

2) The Federal Unemployment Tax (FUTA):

These are the federal contributions serving to pay the remaining 50% of the EBs and 100% of the Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC).

These contributions are also used for loans to states that do not have the resources to cover unemployment insurance expenses in their territories. All unemployment taxes are paid by the employers.


• Conditions of eligibility

To be eligible for unemployment help, you must meet the specific conditions of each State, nevertheless, consider that all states require these three main conditions:

  • 1. Being involuntarily unemployed.

  • 2. Proving a certain length of past activity and a certain income during the reference period, that is, income received during the first four quarters and the last five completed quarters of labor.

  • 3. Being employable, available for work and actively looking for a job.
    Depending on the state, candidates must provide between four and twenty proofs of job search per month to keep their compensations.

• Length of the compensation

The length of time during which you receive compensation depends on the state where you live and its economic conditions at the time of unemployment. There are 3 possibilities:

  • • UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE (UI): if the unemployment rate is low, the duration will be maximum 26 weeks.

  • • EXTENDED BENEFITS (EB): the unemployment rate exceeds a certain predefined threshold.

    In this case, 13 weeks of compensation will be added to the 26 weeks of the UI level.

  • • EMERGENCY UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION (EUC): compensation will be even higher than the amount stated in the last two categories.

• Amount of compensation

Unemployment compensation is paid every two weeks. The amount of compensation varies according to the formula used in each state. Generally, the replacement rate is between 40 to 60% of the reference wage (the national average is 45%).

Please note: most U.S. states have a one-week waiting period before compensation begins.


To receive unemployment insurance benefits, you must file a claim with the unemployment insurance program in the state where you worked. Depending on the state, claims can be filed in person, by telephone, or online.

You may follow this link and select your state in the map to find out the specific requirements and procedures to apply for these benefits.

Now that you have this information, we hope that if you are unemployed, you will quickly find the job you’re looking for and that your personal and professional expectations get fulfilled!