How Much Can You Earn & Still Collect Unemployment?

By Faith O - Updated June 05, 2017
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Unemployment insurance is a social safety net that's supposed to help you pay for life's basic necessities if you lose your job. Unemployment insurance is a joint federal and state program financed by taxes paid by employers. You can earn money at a temporary or part-time job while receiving unemployment benefits, but the income must be reported to the unemployment office and your payments will be adjusted accordingly.

Collecting Unemployment

To receive unemployment benefits, you must file a claim with your state unemployment office. The application procedure, eligibility requirements and processing times vary from state to state (see Resources section), but the basic requirements are that you must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident and have lost your job through no fault of your own. You also must have been in insured employment, meaning your employer was paying unemployment insurance taxes, and you must actively be seeking work.

Working and Collecting Unemployment Benefits

The amount that will be paid to you each week as unemployment benefits is determined by your previous income and benefits structure. If you work part-time or full-time at a temporary job, your unemployment payment will be adjusted to compensate for the amount earned at your temporary job. In some states, this may be a dollar-for-dollar adjustment; in others, it may be a percentage. Check with your state unemployment office to find out how it is calculated where you live.


Illinois uses a partial-benefits formula to determine your unemployment payment while you're working. Your unemployment payment is your weekly benefit less any amount by which your earnings from your temporary job exceeds half of your weekly benefit. If your weekly benefit is $400 and you earn $250 at a temp job, your work earnings exceeded half your weekly unemployment benefit by $50. You will receive unemployment payment of $400 less $50, or $350. If you earn $400 or more in any week, you will not receive an unemployment payment for that week.

About the Author

Faith O has covered politics and general news in Washington DC, Chicago and Maryland. Her writing has appeared in the Associated Press, Prince George's Sentinel, Northwest Indiana Times, Chicago Defender and Daily Southtown, among others. She has a Masters of Journalism from Northwestern University's Medill School and a Bachelor's degree from Hampshire College in Amherst.

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