Current unemployment rate
With the unemployment rate at a staggering 7.2%, the highest in almost 16 years, many people are finding themselves out of work. Some people are out of work for the first time since they started their careers.
December saw a loss of 524,000 jobs. The total job loss for 2008 is 2.6 million jobs. This is the most jobs lost since 1945. Teens have a 21% jobless rate, African-Americans a 12% jobless rate, Hispanics 9.2%, and Asians are at a 5.1% jobless rate.
If you have lost your job or you are worried about losing your job you need to figure out what to do next. For many Americans right now, this means unemployment. You may be eligible to receive unemployment benefits if you are out of work due to no fault of your own. Eligibility requirements vary by state—including having worked for a certain period of time.
Unemployment compensation also varies from state to state. The compensation may be up to half your earnings—depending where you live. Remember, your unemployment check is taxable by the IRS. You can usually choose to have federal and/or state taxes taken out when you first sign up for unemployment. Or, you can pay these when you pay your taxes, and when you hopefully have more money.
Does it matter if I quit or get fired?
It depends on why you have quit or been fired. If you quit your job without good cause, or voluntarily, then your unemployment benefits will most likely be denied. The key words to unemployment are “due to no fault of your own.”
Unemployment benefits vary state by state but if you are discharged or suspend for simple misconduct, gross misconduct, or aggravated misconduct you may be denied anywhere from five to ten weeks to having to become re-employed and earn 30 times your Weekly Benefits Amount in insured work.
If you fail to apply for available, suitable work or if you fail to accept a job that has been offered to you then your unemployment benefits may also be denied.
Reasons you may be denied unemployment benefits
• Quit without good cause
• Fired for misconduct
• Resigned because of illness (check on disability benefits)
• Left to get married
• Attending School
• Involved in a labor dispute
• Check with the Unemployment Office for other special circumstances
What happens if I am denied unemployment?
If you feel you have been wrongly denied unemployment benefits then there is an appeals process and you can usually plead your case in a hearing.
When should I file for unemployment?
You should file as soon as you lose your job. It might take weeks before you get your first check so the faster you file, the faster you can start getting paid. Follow the directions carefully. You will probably need to apply to a certain number of jobs per week and file either every week or every other week. If you miss a filing date you may not get paid for that week.
How do I file for unemployment benefits?
1. Contact your state unemployment office. Each state differs in how you can file. Some states will let you file online or over the phone. Find out what you need and how to apply.
2. Gather everything you will need to file your claim. See next section “What will I need to file for unemployment?”
3. Apply for unemployment as soon as possible. You should have already found out where to apply and if you can do it online. If you can apply online you should do this to save some time.
4. Inquire and register with your state’s job services office.
5. Follow the instructions for claiming weekly or bi-weekly benefits. It is very important that you do this correctly so that you do not miss payments.
6. Be home for any phone calls from the unemployment office (they should give you a specific time and date for any phone interviews) or appear at your state Unemployment Office whenever you are requested to do so.
7. Look for a job and do not turn down any employment offers. Accepting a part-time job may not cancel your unemployment benefits—it depends how much money you earn. Contact your unemployment office and ask them exactly what will happen.
What will I need to file for unemployment?
• Social Security Number
• Mailing address
• Phone number
• Names, addresses and dates of employment of all your past employers for the last two years
• Alien Registration Card if you’re not a US citizen
Will I need to do anything to continue receiving unemployment benefits?
Again, this varies from state to state. Most states require that you actively search for a job. Some states require you to register with the state job service. You must be ready and willing to work. You cannot turn down a position if it meets basic standards.
What do I do if my unemployment runs out?
You can first try to file an unemployment extension. You may have heard of the Unemployment Compensation Extension Act of 2008 passed on November 21, 2008.
No matter where you live, if you have exhausted the 13 weeks of unemployment benefits before the passage of the November legislation you are eligible for 7 weeks of extended benefits.
This means that everyone on unemployment is eligible for 20 weeks of benefits.
If you live in a high unemployment state—a state with an unemployment rate of 6% or more—you are entitled to an additional 13 weeks of benefits. That is a total of 33 weeks of benefits.
To see if you live in a high unemployment rate state check out this chart: http://ows.doleta.gov/unemploy/euc_trigger/2008/euc_122808.html
If you are still confused please check: http://www.unemployedworkers.org/extend_jobless_benefits/federal_jobless_benefits/twotiers.cfm for more information.
What can I do if my unemployment extension runs out?
This is a scary situation that more and more people are in. No matter what, remember that you are entitled to benefits. You paid for these while you were working.
• Call your state unemployment office to make sure you are getting everything you are entitled to.
• Inquire about job training programs or anything else that will give you extra benefits.
• Looking for a temporary job, consider jobs you would not have thought of before, be open to anything.
• Ask your friends and family for help
• Contact your credit cards and tell them that you have lost your job, ask for an arrangement so you won’t go to collection if you can’t pay.
• Try not to use your credit cards too much. Living off your credit cards can cause huge problems down the road.