How Many Weeks Do I Have to Work to Qualify for Unemployment?

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The unemployment insurance program is designed to provide financial support for workers who have lost their jobs. Your total unemployment benefit is based on your previous working salary. To qualify for this program, you must have worked long enough at your previous job to be considered monetarily eligible for unemployment. Your state may have additional requirements for its program.


Unemployment is a temporary support program for unemployed workers. Unemployment benefits typically last for up to 26 weeks, but can be extended for another 13 weeks during periods of high unemployment. While federal law establishes minimum standards for benefits, each state manages its own unemployment program and has its own standards for eligibility requirements, size of benefits, and length of benefits. Unemployment benefits are fully taxable as income in the year they are received.

Time to Qualify

To qualify for unemployment benefits, you must have worked long enough at a job to be monetarily eligible for unemployment. To calculate your eligibility, divide the last 15 months into five periods of three months, starting from the day you file for unemployment. Exclude the most recent three months from this calculation. To be eligible for unemployment, you must have had earnings during at least two of the four remaining work periods. It does not matter how much you earned or how many weeks you worked, but you need to have worked in at least two of these four periods to qualify.

Total Benefit

Your unemployment benefit is based on your previous earnings. To calculate your unemployment benefit, list your total earnings from the four periods in your unemployment eligibility calculation. Add the earnings form the two periods with the highest earnings. Divide the result by two to get your total unemployment benefit. Divide your total unemployment benefit by 26 to calculate your weekly benefit. Each state has a cap on the maximum possible benefit. If you had a high income, your unemployment benefit may be reduced by your state's cap.

Other Requirements

Your state likely has other requirements for a worker to qualify for unemployment. You must have lost your job for no fault of your own. You are disqualified from unemployment if you were fired for negligence, left because of an illness, or quit to go back to school. Your state may also require you to register with the state job service. You must be actively looking for a job and report your progress to the unemployment office. Check with your state's unemployment branch for the full requirements in your state.

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