Working at a part-time, temporary or seasonal job while receiving unemployment benefits can help you meet your financial obligations and keep you in the labor market. However, state unemployment offices have strict rules about income limits and reporting for benefit recipients who work. If you don't comply with these regulations, you risk losing your benefits and possible criminal prosecution.
Purpose of Unemployment Benefits
Unemployment benefits are not intended to replace your previous income, but to help you pay basic living expenses while you look for full-time work. If you supplement your unemployment benefits with low-paying or part-time work, prepare for your current level of unemployment income to decrease.
Read More: How to File for Unemployment Benefits Extension
Each state has different rules for benefit recipients who want to work while receiving unemployment benefits. Contact your state's unemployment office to learn about its policies regarding part-time, temporary and seasonal work. In many cases, you can work part-time, or at a low-paying job, and still receive benefits as long as your income doesn't exceed your weekly benefit amount.
Depending on your income, your state unemployment agency may reduce the amount of money you receive in your benefits check. The exact amount of the decrease depends on your state's policies, and your benefits may be exempt from reduction if your income is under a certain threshold. If you work a temporary job that pays you more than your weekly benefits, your unemployment benefits may be suspended until the job ends. If this is the case, contact your unemployment office to reopen your benefits claim when you are no longer employed.
When you certify for benefits, the certification system asks you about any income that you have earned. It is important that you disclose any income that you have earned through part-time or temporary work. If you don't do this, you may be charged with unemployment benefits fraud. Those who are convicted of benefits fraud may be required to repay benefits that they have received, pay additional fines and may even go to jail.
Active Work Search
One of the conditions for receiving unemployment benefits is that you continue to look for work. Each state has its own standards for the work search requirement, but you are generally expected to contact a certain number of prospective employers each week and to follow up on any interview requests or job offers. Working part-time doesn't change this requirement, so you need to make time for both your job responsibilities and your work search.
- U.S. Department of Labor; State Unemployment Insurance Benefits; January 2010
- Mass.gov: If You're Working Part-Time or Full-Time While Collecting; 2011
- Nolo; Collecting Unemployment: Are You Able, Available, and Actively Seeking Work?; Lisa Guerin
- Washington State Employment Security Department: Frequently Asked Questions About Unemployment Benefits; March 29, 2011
Lainie Petersen writes about business, real estate and personal finance, drawing on 25 years experience in publishing and education. Petersen's work appears in Money Crashers, Selling to the Masses, and in Walmart News Now, a blog for Walmart suppliers. She holds a master's degree in library science from Dominican University.