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Unemployment Insurance


Unemployment insurance is a federal-state policy—federal rules determine what types of employment are covered by unemployment insurance and establish broad eligibility requirements. States, however, have wide discretion in setting specific eligibility criteria as well as benefit levels, and these decisions vary widely across the states. [More detail and national data...]

Federal decisions are italicized.

Eligibility Criteria

Past earnings requirements

Federal rules or guidelines1Must have previous strong attachment to the labor force.
Min earnings in 1-year base period for min weekly benefit1$920 (2006)2
Min earnings in high quarter for min weekly benefit1Not applicable (2006)
Min earnings in 1-year base period for max total benefit1$17,160 (2006)
Min earnings in high quarter for max total benefit1$7,590 (2006)
State counts most recent earnings when determining eligibility3No (2006)

Nonmonetary eligibility criteria

Federal rules or guidelines4Must be unemployed involuntarily through no fault of one's own, and must be able, available for, and actively seeking work.
State has general provision recognizing "good cause" for quitting work5No (2003)
Eligible if seeking part-time work6Yes, on same basis as those seeking full-time work (2005)

Immigrant eligibility criteria

Federal restrictions on lawful permanent residents' (LPRs) access to benefits7None (2005)

Benefits

Benefit level

Minimum weekly benefit (no dependents)1$20/week (2006)
Max weekly benefit (no dependents)1$330/week (2006)
Additional dependent allowance provided1No (2006)
Weekly benefit amount is indexed to average weekly wage8No (2004)

One-week waiting period eliminated

One-week waiting period eliminated8Yes (2004)

Potential duration of benefits

Potential duration of benefits924 - 26 weeks (2006)

Participants

Number of recipients

Number of first payments1022,545 first payments (2006)

Benefit coverage

Recipiency rate1148% (2006)

Spending

Total spending

Total spending on benefits (state)12$97.7 million (2006)

Spending per recipient

Average weekly benefit12$251/week (2006)
Average total benefit13$4,335/benefit year (2006)
Replacement rate1428.2% (2006)

Average duration of benefits

Average number of weeks received1217.3 weeks (2006)
Average potential duration of benefits1520.3 weeks (2006)

Data Notes and Sources

Data on Unemployment Insurance were compiled by NCCP in August 2007. Some state policy decisions may have changed since these data were collected.

  1. U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Workforce Security, Comparison of State UI Laws, 2006, http://www.ows.doleta.gov (accessed July 11, 2007).
  2. Figure reflects earnings needed to "qualify" for benefits; additional earnings may be needed to actually receive the minimum benefit.
  3. In most states, the base period consists of the first 4 of the 5 most recently completed quarters. Some states allow claimants to use an alternative base period that includes more recent earnings.
    U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Workforce Security, Comparison of State UI Laws, 2006, http://www.ows.doleta.gov (accessed July 11, 2007).
  4. Partial UI benefits are also available to workers who are "partially" employed - workers whose hours were reduced by their employer, or persons receiving UI who have found short-term, part-time work, but continue to look for a permanent, full-time job.
    U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Workforce Security, Comparison of State UI Laws, 2006, http://www.ows.doleta.gov (accessed July 11, 2007).
  5. A general "good cause" provision extends eligibility to persons who leave their jobs for "personal emergencies" or "compelling circumstances", which should include--among others--child care conflicts, illness, domestic violence, and spousal relocation. Eligibility determinations, however, may vary in practice. States may also specifically recognize certain reasons as "good cause"; for more information see Appendix B in Rebecca Smith, Rick McHugh, Andrew Stettner, and Nancy Segal, Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Confronting the Failure of State Unemployment Insurance Systems to Serve Women and Working Families, National Employment Law Project, 2003.
    Rebecca Smith, Rick McHugh, Andrew Stettner, and Nancy Segal, Between a Rock and a Hard Place: Confronting the Failure of State Unemployment Insurance Systems to Serve Women and Working Families, National Employment Law Project, July 2003.
  6. Rick McHugh and Andrew Stettner, How Much Does Unemployment Insurance for Jobless Part Time Workers Cost?, National Employment Law Project, May 2005, http://www.nelp.org (accessed July 13, 2005).
  7. National Immigration Law Center, Guide to Immigrant Eligibility for Federal Programs, Fourth Edition, 2002; with updates from Update Page, http://www.nilc.org (accessed October 28, 2005).
  8. Andrew Stettner, Rebecca Smith, and Rick McHugh, Changing Workforce, Changing Economy: State Unemployment Insurance Reforms for the 21st Century, National Employment Law Project, 2004.
  9. Potential duration is the maximum number of weeks of benefits that a claimant is eligible for under the regular state program. In most states, it is determined based on the amount and distribution of the recipient's earnings in the base period; eight states have a uniform potential duration for all claimants.
    U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Workforce Security, Comparison of State UI Laws, 2006, http://www.ows.doleta.gov (accessed July 11, 2007).
  10. A "first payment" refers to the first week of unemployment benefits paid to a claimant in a benefit year.
    U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration, "State Benefits Data - 4th Quarter 2006," http://workforcesecurity.doleta.gov (accessed July 26, 2007).
  11. Figure reflects the number of claims (some of which are rejected) in the state's regular unemployment insurance program divided by the number of unemployed.
    U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration, "State Financial Data - 4th Quarter 2006," http://workforcesecurity.doleta.gov (accessed July 26, 2007).
  12. U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration, "State Benefits Data - 4th Quarter 2006," http://workforcesecurity.doleta.gov (accessed July 26, 2007).
  13. Figure reflects total spending on benefits divided by number of first payments.
    U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration, "State Benefits Data - 4th Quarter 2006," http://workforcesecurity.doleta.gov (accessed July 26, 2007).
  14. Figure reflects average weekly benefit divided by the average weekly wage of workers covered by unemployment insurance.
    U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration, "State Benefits Data - 4th Quarter 2006," http://workforcesecurity.doleta.gov (accessed July 26, 2007).
  15. Subri Raman, U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration, personal email (received August 3, 2007).