How much is unemployment, and for how long do unemployment benefits last?

Unemployment benefit payments vary depending on which state you live in, but the calculations are relatively simple and you can figure out the amount you will receive yourself. Each state has its own method of determining the unemployment benefit an employee will receive, and how long they will last may also vary. A majority of states determine weekly benefits using the base period quarter in which wages are highest. This is called the High-Quarter Method. Other states may use a variety of methods from the Annual-Wage Method to the Average-Weekly-Wage Formula. Because the High-Quarter Method is the most common method of computing benefits, you may be able to use this to help you determine your unemployment benefit.

How can I estimate my unemployment benefit amount?

The high-quarter is the period that the wage earner worked closest to a full-time schedule. This is the period in which wages were highest. Divide the amount earned during this quarter by 13, which is the number of weeks in a calendar quarter. The state determines the percentage of that wage that will be replaced. The weekly wage is divided and the weekly benefit is calculated based on the weekly wage. For example, a worker who earned $3,200 during the high quarter made an average weekly wage of $246 per week ($3,200 divided by 13). Depending on the state, the benefit amount may replace one half of the average weekly earnings. This means the worker's weekly benefit amount will be $123.

How long do unemployment benefits last?

Once your unemployment benefit amount has been calculated, your state will determine the duration of benefits, or how long unemployment benefits can be collected. Several states establish uniform durations of 26 weeks for all workers who meet qualifying-wage requirements, while other states have the flexibility to assign benefits lasting anywhere from 26 to 30 weeks.

All states require workers to have earned a certain amount of wages, to have worked for a certain period of time, or both, to be eligible to receive Unemployment Insurance Benefits. Fortunately, most workers qualify for benefits based on employment and wages in their state of residence. Individuals working in multiple states may not have adequate employment and wages in a single state, which will reduce the worker’s total weekly benefit amount.

Please review the United States Department of Labor, Monetary Entitlement pdf, Table 3-3: Base Period Wage and Employment Requirements for Benefits. The table lists current benefit requirements by state.