How Many Weeks Do You Need to Work to Collect Unemployment in New Jersey?

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Like all other states, New Jersey requires a significant work history for any claimant to participate in the unemployment program. It requires you to work a number of weeks earning a minimum work amount. This prevents those who have only a worked a few weeks from collecting employment. For those who can’t accomplish this in the base period, the Department of Labor of Workforce Development (DLWD) offers an alternate base period with stricter wage requirements.

Monetary Eligibility

When the DLWD reviews your New Jersey initial unemployment claim, it’s looking for a number of eligibility requirements, including monetary eligibility. Monetary eligibility is the amount of required previous work a state uses for unemployment claimants. In New Jersey, you earn at least 20 base weeks, which are weeks in which you earn at least 20 times the state minimum wage at the time. As of publication, the state minimum wage is $7.25, so anyone applying for unemployment must have earned $145 a week for 20 weeks.

Base Period

These base weeks can’t occur at any time. They must occur during your base period. Your base period is the first four of the last five full calendar quarters before you filed your New Jersey unemployment claim. So if you filed your unemployment claim on June 27, 2011, your last full calendar quarter was January 2011 through March 2011. This makes your base period January 2010 through December 2010.

Alternate Base Period

Some claimants don’t have enough base weeks in their base period. The DLWD allows them to participate in the program during an alternate base period if they can meet the additional requirements. The alternate base period is the last four full calendar quarters before you filed your claim. So if you filed June 27, 2011, your base period is April 2010 through March 2011. To use the alternate base period, you must have earned 1000 times the current New Jersey minimum wage during that time.

Covered Wages

All of the wage requirements, whether for the base period or the alternate base period, should come from covered wages. Covered wages are those paid by jobs protected by the New Jersey unemployment laws and requiring the employers to pay into the unemployment fund. While this includes most work, it excludes self-employment, independent contractors and commission-only work, among other things. Any wages earned from these types of work don’t count toward monetary eligibility.