How Many Hours Can You Work and Still Get Unemployment?

Unemployed hold cardboard box and laptop bag, dossier and drawing tube in box. Quitting a job, businessman fired or leave a job concept. stock photo
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Losing one’s job can be a challenging reality to face, but a common one workers from all economic sectors might eventually have to endure at some point in their career.

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Most unemployed workers either apply for unemployment insurance (UI) or get a new job. Contrary to popular thought, some workers who have lost their job collect unemployment insurance while working part time — but there are rules governing how many hours might be worked (and how much money might be earned) before unemployment insurance benefits suffer. These rules vary from state to state.

New York Unemployment Insurance, as an Example

For example, per the New York State Department of Labor, you have to work under 30 hours — and earn less than $504 per week — to be eligible for partial unemployment insurance benefits. If you work fewer than 10 hours, you can report zero hours to UI, and retain your full unemployment insurance payment.

Weekly, 11-16 hours of work is the equivalent of one day of work and would result in a 25% reduction in your benefits, 17-21 hours is considered two days worked — and would cost you 50% of your weekly benefit rate — and 22-30 hours of work is considered three days worked and results in a loss of 75% of your unemployment payments.

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Each State Has Its Own Unemployment Insurance Plan

Each state has its own qualifications for unemployment insurance based on an applicant’s previous earnings, as well as upon certain rates of benefit penalties (or reductions) applied to those who continue to work while drawing UI.

Some states pay only a certain amount — or for a certain number of weeks — and require you to be actively looking for a job while you are on partial UI. Some states, like Michigan or Wisconsin, have more complicated part-time employment/UI eligibility requirements.

Concerns Surrounding Unemployment Insurance

According to Indeed, unemployment insurance is a temporary financial respite to an unexpected loss of employment due to a company layoff or a considerable loss of hours at your job. Part-time employment is any position that requires an employee to work fewer hours and days than a full-time employee, and most smaller businesses set their own definition of full-time hours or duties. Larger enterprises (those specifically defined as an applicable large employer — or ALE — by the IRS, having more than 50 full-time or 50 full-time equivalent workers on staff) define full-time work as 30 hours per week, or 130 hours per month, however, per IRS guidelines.

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It’s also important to confirm your employment status. Employers may try to put employees on temporary furloughs — or assign them to a “zero-hour” schedule — instead of laying them off, or terminating their position. Depending on where you live, these employment statuses may prevent you from claiming UI. It is best to check your respective state’s unemployment website for specific UI details, benefit eligibility and processes.

Those interested in a comprehensive chart detailing each state’s eligibility guidelines can do so via UnemploymentPUA.

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About the Author

David Nadelle is a freelance editor and writer based in Ottawa, Canada. After working in the energy industry for 18 years, he decided to change careers in 2016 and concentrate full-time on all aspects of writing. He recently completed a technical communication diploma and holds previous university degrees in journalism, sociology and criminology. David has covered a wide variety of financial and lifestyle topics for numerous publications and has experience copywriting for the retail industry.

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