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How To Apply for Unemployment Benefits


Unemployment line waiting for an interview

Lining up for an interview with an employment counselor.

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When you lose your job, unemployment benefits administered by your state, can provide temporary financial assistance. It can help you pay the bills while you look for a new job. Find out how to apply for unemployment insurance benefits in the United States.

Difficulty: Easy

Time Required: na

Here's How:

  1. Find out if you qualify to receive benefits. Individual states determine eligibility. Your State Unemployment Insurance Office can tell you if you qualify and how to apply if you do.
  2. Gather the documents and the information you need to file your claim. You will need your Social Security number. You will also need a list of past employers, their addresses, and your dates of employment.
  3. Apply for unemployment benefits through your State Unemployment Insurance Office, which may allow you to apply online, by phone or in person. Apply as soon as possible since it may take a while to receive your first check.
  4. Register with your state's Employment Services Office. You can receive free services that include help with your resume, job interview help, career counseling, access to local job listings and job training.
  5. Claim your weekly or bi-weekly benefits. In many states you can do this online or by phone. It is important to follow your state's directions for claiming your weekly benefits so you don't miss payments.
  6. Appear at your Unemployment Insurance Office when you are requested to do so. Be on time for all appointments.
  7. Look for a job. To maintain your benefits you must actively look for a job and not turn down any suitable offers. Taking a part-time job may not mean your benefits will end, as long as you don't earn over a certain salary, as determined by individual states. Check with your unemployment insurance office for details.


  1. Contact your State Unemployment Insurance Office for information specific to applying for unemployment insurance benefits in your state.
  2. The amount recipients of unemployment insurance benefits receive is based on a percentage of the individual's earnings over a 52-week period. The amount will not exceed a maximum benefit amount that varies by state.
  3. Benefits can be paid for up to a maximum of 26 weeks in most states, although additional weeks of benefits may be available during periods of high unemployment.

What You Need:

  • Your Social Security number
  • A list of jobs you have held, including dates of employment and addresses.
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