What Is the Maximum Amount Per Week of Unemployment Benefits?

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If you lose your job, you are likely to file for unemployment compensation to help tide you over financially while you find another job. More than likely you are curious about the maximum amount of benefits you can receive on a weekly basis, so you should know there are several factors that will determine that amount.

Number of Weekly Benefits

The amount of compensation you receive depends on the state in which you establish your unemployment claim. Because state laws vary widely, the amount you receive will also vary widely. Among the states that pay the highest unemployment insurance compensation are Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. Massachusetts pays the highest at up to $942 per week for 72 weeks. Rhode Island is next at up to $660 per week for 79 weeks, then Pennsylvania at up to $566 per week for 72 weeks. Connecticut pays up to $594 for 72 weeks and New Jersey pays up to $584 for 79 weeks.

Read More: NYS Unemployment Benefits

Number of Weekly Benefits

States determine how many weeks to allow benefits to be paid based on their individual unemployment rates. Generally, the higher the state’s unemployment rate, the more likely that it will dole out benefit checks for a longer period of time.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the number of benefit weeks states can allow is 26 weeks. This can increase if the applicant receives emergency unemployment compensation (EUC). Then the range can be from 46 weeks to 79 weeks. If you have exhausted your state-level unemployment benefits, you may be eligible to file a claim for federally funded EUC. As both state and federal laws stood in mid 2011, the maximum number of weeks applicants can receive under the state and federal unemployment programs is 99 weeks. Congress and the president must approve extensions of this allowance.

State Laws Rule

Each individual state has its own way of doling out unemployment benefits and determining the amount that approved applicants can receive. They also have the last word on the number of weeks an applicant can receive.

State laws are based loosely on federal guidelines, including the federal Fair Labor Standards Act. The U.S. Department of Labor’s, Wage and Hour Division enforces this law.

Because states have the power to set their own rules when it comes to their unemployment benefit programs, the rules vary widely. Therefore, you should make sure you familiarize yourself with your state’s law before applying, especially if you are concerned about the maximum amount of benefits you could receive.

Formulas Determine Monetary Amounts

Each state uses a formula, often complex, to determine how much in weekly compensation an applicant can receive. Two of the main factors used are how much you earned from the employer who laid you off, and how long you worked on that job.

When states calculate the unemployment compensation amount, they usually use the applicant’s wages incurred during what is called the base period. This period generally covers the first four of the last five calendar quarters that were completed before you first applied for benefits.

Furthermore, some states require applicants to have worked a certain amount of time during the base period to be eligible for benefits. You will find that almost all states that impose this requirement also require the applicant to have worked in at least two of the four calendar quarters that make up the base period.


About the Author

Valerie Fox is a business reporter and editor specializing in consumer affairs and debt management. She has been a writer since 1994, also covering politics, housing and the stock and bond markets. Fox has written for Cox, Gannett and Knight-Ridder newspapers. She holds a Bachelor of Science in economics from the University of Florida.