Guide to Unemployment Benefits (Eligibility and Tips)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated July 27, 2022 | Published October 23, 2018

Updated July 27, 2022

Published October 23, 2018

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

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If you were laid off, you may qualify for unemployment benefits. In this video, we provide an overview of what those unemployment benefits might be.

Professionals who lose their jobs through no fault of their own may qualify to receive unemployment benefits. These benefits can help you support yourself and any dependents while you search for another position. If you’ve recently lost your job, it might help you to learn about some unemployment support programs.

In this article, we summarize what these unemployment benefits might be, provide guidance to help in your job search and share some tips for using unemployment benefits.

What is unemployment insurance?

Unemployment insurance is a government program that aims to provide temporary financial support to eligible individuals who have lost their jobs. Each state maintains its own requirements for who qualifies for unemployment benefits and how much they will receive. The funds for unemployment insurance usually come from taxes paid by business owners in each state.

Related: How Is Unemployment Rate Calculated?

Why might you apply for unemployment benefits?

Usually, people file for unemployment benefits when they lose their job and are not at fault for the loss. Common examples of this type of unemployment include layoffs and company closures. There are several reasons why it may be beneficial to apply for unemployment benefits as soon as you become unemployed. Even if you find a job before you receive benefits, filing for unemployment can:

  • Provide supplementary income to help pay for necessary life expenses

  • Offer peace of mind and support as you seek new work

  • Come with government support programs like retraining opportunities

Related: How To Collect Unemployment (With Eligibility Requirements)

What are the requirements for unemployment benefits?

Each state has its own program that determines who is eligible to receive benefits, but most states consider the same basic factors in the process. Here are a few factors that might affect your eligibility:

  • Unemployment time: In some states, people can start receiving unemployment as soon as they leave their job, while other states have a required waiting period.

  • Employment tenure: Many states only offer unemployment benefits to people who worked in the state for a certain amount of time before losing their job.

  • Amount earned in base period: A state might only offer unemployment benefits to people who earned a baseline amount of money during the months before they lost their job.

  • Reason for job loss: Typically, unemployment insurance is for people who were laid off or whose company closed, rather than people who were fired for their conduct.

  • Willingness to work: Unemployment recipients might be asked to prove that they are searching for another job during the period they receive benefits.

Related: How Does Unemployment Work? 9 Things To Know

How to file for unemployment benefits

Here are five steps you can take to find out if you qualify for unemployment benefits: 

  1. Go to the Department of Labor’s Career One Stop webpage for Unemployment Benefits.

  2. Under “Find Unemployment Benefits,” you can use the drop-down menu to select your state or click on your state using the U.S. map.

  3. Find the link to your state’s general unemployment information page and click on it, or find a posted number to call.

  4. There, locate your state’s information page detailing the requirements for unemployment benefits. If you prefer, you can call the number provided to speak to a state employee.

  5. If you meet the requirements, visit your state’s unemployment benefits website and file an application. You might also visit a local office for unemployment services.

How To File a Claim With the Unemployment Office

How to search for a job when you’re unemployed

In almost every state, you’re required to actively search for new work opportunities while on unemployment. While searching for a new job when you’ve recently lost your position can be stressful, there are steps you can take to make the process easier. Here are six strategies you can use to search for a job while receiving unemployment benefits:

1. Take time for self-care and reflection

This period can be an opportunity to revisit your career goals. You might consider what you enjoyed about your old job, what you didn’t like and what your skills are. This will help you when updating your resume and finding jobs that are the best fit for you. When you’re not applying for jobs, spend time on your hobbies or with your friends and family. Taking care of your personal life can make your job search more productive.

Related: Setting Goals To Improve Your Career

2. Update your resume

If you’ve been in a job for several years, you might update your resume with the experience, skills and achievements you’ve accomplished in your last position. A current, relevant resume can give you an advantage in the hiring process. When updating your professional experience, include your most relevant key achievements instead of your job duties. Include numbers that measure your success wherever possible, like the percent of months you surpassed your sales quota or the total number of customers you helped.

Related: Guide To Updating Your Resume

3. Acquire new skills

You might find that job postings for new careers or jobs similar to your previous role require certain skills or experience. If available to you, you might use this time to complete coursework or training to make you more competitive in the job market. You might look at job descriptions for positions you’re interested in and take notes about common certifications or skills they include. Then, take a course or do some research in those areas.

Related: How To List Certifications on a Resume (With Examples)

4. Attend networking events to meet employers and recruiters

While it is important and efficient to apply for jobs online, you might also consider attending networking or hiring events where employers are searching for candidates like you. Speaking with recruiters from companies in your chosen industry can help you identify the skills and traits that your desired employers are looking for in job candidates. Then, you can tailor your resume and cover letter to meet those needs.

Related: Top Networking Skills You Should Have (And How To Improve Them)

5. Search and apply for jobs

You can begin looking for opportunities on Indeed, on desktop or mobile. For detailed information on searching for jobs, visit The Essential Job Search Guide. Once you’ve found a job you want to apply for, you can easily apply with your Indeed Resume. Potential employers may look favorably on candidates who use their time during unemployment for self-improvement or community service. It may also be helpful to refer back to ways you’ve spent your time working on areas of improvement when discussing your job loss in interviews.

Related: How to Change Careers

6. Keep track of your activities

Your state may require you to do some of these suggested activities to continue receiving unemployment benefits. If so, it might be helpful to create an activity log to plan your job search. You might use a spreadsheet or other log sheet to record how many jobs you apply to each week or provide information about the new skills you’re developing. Depending on your state, you might be required to submit this information on a regular basis.

Related: How To Track Time in a Spreadsheet (With Benefits)

Tips for coping with unemployment

Here are a few tips that can help you manage your job search and finances during the time you’re receiving unemployment benefits:

Remember that unemployment benefits may not cover all expenses

If you are receiving unemployment benefits for an extended amount of time, you might consider creating or modifying your budget to plan for unemployment. Though unemployment benefits will help cover certain expenses, they may not cover expenditures in the same way that a job might. Here are a few ways to cut down on expenses:

  • Canceling subscription services

  • Changing your eating habits

  • Looking for part-time or contract work opportunities if your state allows you to do so

Know when your benefits end

In most states, there is a limit to how long you can receive unemployment benefits. Contact your state’s unemployment agency to find out how long benefits last in your state. Knowing how much time you can depend on that extra income can help you create a financial plan for the future. You might cut your budget while on benefits to save up for expenses when they expire.

Consistently apply for jobs

Job searching is hard work, and consistently applying is a big part of that effort. It’s helpful to set goals for yourself, such as planning how many jobs you want to apply for each day or week. As you meet your application goals, think of a way to reward yourself. For example, you might plan an inexpensive, fun day at the park if you submit 50 applications in a week.

Related: 3 Habits That Could Increase Your Chances of Getting the Job

Remind yourself that is no shame in receiving unemployment benefits

Losing a job can certainly evoke different emotions, from sadness to anger to anxiety. Be attentive to your mental and emotional health during this time, both for yourself and for a productive job search. Engage in practices that help you feel confident and happy, like spending time with loved ones, exercising or being outdoors. Many people experience job loss, which is why state benefits exist to support citizens. Treat this time as an opportunity to acquire new skills, improve your resume and interview techniques and ultimately find a new opportunity suited to your needs and interests.

Disclaimer: This article is for information purposes only and is not intended to constitute legal advice; you should consult with an attorney for any legal issues you may be experiencing.

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