How Long Do I Have to Work For to Collect Unemployment in California?

California defines what qualifies as an employer as paying more than $100 in any quarter.

California has two different methods that can be used in determining eligibility for unemployment compensation.

The first one is a simple flat qualifying amount (FQA) of a $1,300 HQW, which necessitates working during at least one quarter in the base period.

The second one is a $900 HQW with the total earning in the base period being at least 1.25 times the HQW (which amounts to $1,125), which necessitates working during at least 2 quarters of the base period.


To determine your eligibility, follow this model:

For the first method:

  1. Did you earn at least $1,300 within a single quarter?

■        your HQW > $1,300

  1. Did you work during at least one quarter of the base period?

If you answered yes to both questions, you qualify for unemployment insurance in California.


For the second method:

  1. Did you earn at least $900 within a single quarter?

■        your HQW > $900

  1. Did you earn at least 1.25 times your HQW within the entire base period?

■        your total BP earnings > $1,125

■        your total BP earnings > 1.25 x HQW

  1. Did you work during at least 2 quarters of the base period?

If you answered yes to all three questions, you qualify for unemployment insurance in California.


California does not offer an extended base period; however, an alternate base period is available, but only if you are not first qualified for benefits using  the standard base period.  In that event, CA will use the alternate base period which includes the last four completed calendar quarters.


  • Max


    We are an construction company in California, we fired an employee that he worked (16 days) from 3/13/17 to 4/3/17 and earned $4800.00 in total before tax,

    now he claimed for unemployment, does he qualify?


    • He does monetarily. CA will first look at wages either Jan-Dec. 2016, or Apr 1, 2016-Mar. 31, 2017. All he needs to earn in either of those periods is either (1) $1,300 in one quarter, or (2) $900 in one quarter and $225 outside that quarter. If his only wages were the $4,800 listed above, even in that short period, assuming he earned $4,500 through 3/31, with the $300 earned 4/3, he qualifies for a weekly benefit of $174/wk for about 13 weeks. It is also possible he is reopening an existing claim. CA always contacts the most recent employer before doing that.

  • Aniel

    I have an employee who is relocating to another city where we do not have a DC. Does she qualify for unemployment. She has been with me for 10 years and this is a personal move.

    • If her husband/fiance is moving there, yes. This is a state-mandated benefit paid for by California – NOT you. Your account will not be charged. Fyi – over 40 states pay for benefits under these circumstances. There may also be other acceptable personal reasons mandated under California law. Read this:

      • Aniel

        No she is single and has a young child but has no support system here to help her and she does in Ohio which is why she is leaving. This made me think she would not qualify for unemployment.

        • She will probably be initially denied as interviewers are not given much latitude in CA. Normally, child care is personal – but if she can connect this somehow to family reunification, compelling family circumstances, she would be on stronger ground. Interviewers initially issue denials and let the appeals court sort out the facts.

          There may be something on that CA page which fits her. She would need to appeal a denial in order to have the specific facts of her case examined. It always pays to apply and appeal in CA. CA ALJ’s are the most claimant-friendly in the US.

  • Kay Miller

    I quit my job of 12 years in California to work for another company in Texas. Long story short when I got there position was no longer available to me. Can I apply for unemployment?

    • Yes. Apply in California. Not all states will pay under these circumstances, but CA will. Be prepared to provide CA proof of this job offer and any ways in which it was materially better than the job you left. Expect a possible initial denial as interviewers are given limited latitude on decisions like these – and a need to appeal. These denials are routine. Ignore it, and file an appeal. Over 50% of appeals in California are won. It always pays to appeal in CA.

      See B.1., here:

  • Jennifer

    I work in California. If I worked from 2/21/17 to April 21, 2017 with weekends off, can I get unemployment?

    • If you earned $1,300 before 3/31/2017, you would qualify for a very small benefit if you lose this job. Otherwise, if you have other work history, CA will look at all earnings going back to January 1, 2016.

      • Jennifer

        I worked from another company for 15 and a half years. I quit that job on July 2016 and stopped working for at least 3 months. Got a temp job here and there. Then finally got this permanent job, the one for Feb 21-April 21 2017.
        So would they consider those earnings, even though I quit on that one?

        • CA will still use those earnings even though you’ve quit. The quit won’t matter anymore, because you’ve worked temp and other jobs since that quit. You’ve earned more than enough to purge any penalty.

          You’ve got plenty of earnings from that job in 2016 for a 26-week claim. CA will first look at earnings Jan-Dec. 2016. Only if you don’t qualify (which you will), will it look at earnings April 1, 2016-March 31, 2017. All you need in CA for a 26-week claim is 26 weeks’ earnings. You have that Jan-June 2016.

  • Chloe

    My husband and I are moving from California to Arizona in June. He works mostly remote, but does have an office he can work out of in Az if he needs to go into the office. His position is easily transferable in many states in the U.S. I cannot transfer with my employer. Am I able to collect unemployment once we get to Arizona if I haven’t found a new job? If so, do I file in California? Thank you.

  • Anna

    Hello I’ve worked in a transport company in the position of dispatcher and making all the invoices, payrolls and several things. I start in December of 2015 and all 2016 but with form 1099. In January the first I started with w2 form. My boss pushing me and stress me. He changed me to another position that I don’t have any knowledge. And cut me my full time to part time this week. I’m a single mother and today. Monday 17 abril 2017. He just fired me with no explanation at all. Can I get unemployment I was earning 600 per week. And also he fired me with no reason. Can I obtain some liquidation?
    Please help me

    • You can apply. W-2 wages Jan-Mar. will qualify you in California for about $300/wk. However, you won’t be able to collect for longer than 13 weeks.

      HOWEVER, you worked all of 2016 on 1099 – none of those wages are eligible unless you get them reclassified. If these wages are reclassified, you will qualify for a 26-week claim, not 13 weeks, plus you will have a good LAG for another second year claim should you get another job and be laid off again.

      From your job description, it is clear you should never have been a 1099 worker. Read this fact sheet:

      Employers routinely violate the law on 1099 workers in order to avoid taxes.

      CA investigates and reclassifies 1099 wages to W-2 wages all the time. Therefore, apply for benefits. Talk to a rep if possible. Tell that rep you worked all of 2016 on 1099 and those should not have been 1099 wages and you want an investigation and reclassification done.

      Might take a few more weeks to get benefits, but the payoff is worth it.

      One more thing, chances are your employer will lie and accuse you of misconduct and you may be initially denied. IGNORE THAT and file an appeal if that happens. Appeals are won in CA all the time. It ALWAYS pays to appeal in CA.

  • annie

    I am currently collecting unemployment. If I were to get hired, but fired after a few months, would I be able to collect unemployment again? Is there a specific amount of weeks/months I need to work to collect?

    • You do not need to work a set number of weeks/hours, etc. to reopen an existing claim. In your case, assuming the claim had not yet expired, you would REOPEN your existing claim and continue collecting those benefits until exhausted or the benefit year expires, whichever occurs first.

      If you are still unemployed at the end of the benefit year, you would reapply for a new claim. The fact that you have worked during your current benefit year will qualify you for a new claim at that time if you are still unemployed.

  • skm

    I did not work in 2016 from Jan 1st-Oct 2nd. I started my current job October 3rd 2016 and plan on staying here until August 2017.

    I have some medical issues which cause me to miss work sometimes and the employers attendance policy is very strict. I already have 5 points and I can only have up to 7 before getting let go. The points do not come off a year from the missed day.

    If I were to get let go or fired in August 2017 for attendance reasons would I be eligible for unemployment?

    Thank you.

    • Yes, you are eligible. Medical reasons are not disqualifying. Keep documentation of your notices to employer and medical reasons for absences.

      Monetarily you are already eligible. CA only requires earnings in one quarter of $1,300. Six months, or two quarters, usually will provide a 26 week claim.

      If you are discharged in August, CA will review wages October 2016-March 2017. Weekly benefit is based on high quarter earnings, number of weeks paid is determined by dividing the weekly benefit into 50% of the total wages in the base period. More info here, on pp. 6-7:

  • Caitlin Trudgian

    I started working a new job two weeks ago and got let go today. I asked for an explanation and she refused to give one. I know I didn’t do anything wrong. I only made a total of $310, however, I have earnings in prior base periods from previous recent work. Will I qualify for UI if I file? Or did I not make enough money from this last job?

    • If you already have a claim, REOPEN that claim. If you do not have a claim, file an application for benefits. What matters is $$ in the base period, not how long you’ve been on the job.

      CA has a very low bar for qualifying. You earn either $1,300 in a quarter, or $900 in one quarter and $225 outside that quarter. If you meet either of those earnings requirements, you have monetary eligibility for a claim.

  • Tina B

    Hello- my husband had not worked since April 2012 (stay-at-home-father). He started with a construction company on 2/23/2017 and today (3/23/2017) was his last day. He earned well over the $1,300. Am I understanding correctly that if he waits until after 4/2/2017 to file a claim with unemployment benefits in CA, that he may be eligible for benefits? Thank you!

  • MT

    I have worked since feb 15 2017 and will likely be let go in the next month. The last full time W-2 salary I got ended in October. I worked contract 1099 wages oct nov dec. will I be eligible for unemployment? Should I wait to file if that makes a difference? Thanks

    • File immediately upon discharge. When you apply, CA will look at wages Jan.-Dec. 2016. You only need to have earned $1,300 in that period to qualify for a claim. Since this last job is W-2, CA should have no problem finding eligibility.

      Your weekly benefit will be determined by your high quarter wages in that period. The total number of weeks paid will be determined by dividing 50% of total wages by the weekly benefit. With 9-10 months wages, you will have no problem qualifying for a 26-week claim.

      If you want to determine your weekly benefit, that information is here, beginning on p.7:

  • Joseph

    I have been working since march 2016 and am being layed off in April 2017. I make 1200 a month. My question is would I be eligible for UI and for how long will I get benefits?

  • Eden Percy

    Hi, I worked for two months and they called and let me go. I asked why and the manager said I missed something on my application. This was a year ago still looking for work. Is it too late to apply? Can I?

    • The only condition of when you file for benefits is that there are enough wages in the base period to support a claim. If you apply now, CA will look at wages October 2015-September 2016, or Jan-Dec. 2016. You absolutely can apply now. If you have no other earlier earnings than two months Jan-Mar. 2016, all you needed to earn in that two months is $1,300. If you did, should qualify. If you have other work history, for sure you qualify. Apply immediately

  • Yesenia

    I worked for about a month at this job and was getting paid by weekly and he just completely from one day to another stopped giving my hours to work I reached out to him and asked why wasn’t i on the schedule he said he would call me never did . I reached out to him on several occasions via email via text and he ignored my calls my text and he still just completely basically fired me is there anyway I can do something about the situation??

    • You can’t do anything but apply for unemployment benefits because your employer has discharged you. If you have sufficient work history prior to this one month job, going back to October, CA should find enough earnings to grant a claim. There is no way to force an employer to give you hours.

      • Yesenia

        Okay I see but I can apply for unemployment even if I was only there for that amount of time ? I understand you can’t force them but wrongful termination no warning no nothing I was in shock .

        • To repeat, if you had sufficient earnings in the base period, you will get benefits. In California, there is no requirement you work at a job for x number of weeks. It’s all about earnings in the base period. Apply now, CA uses earnings either through October or December. Apply in April, CA uses earning either through December or March.

  • angie

    Hello so i worked at a job for 7 months started aug 2016 and last friday march 17.2017 got let go with no explanation he just said he didn’t need my services no more wanr to know will i get anything or can i file for unemployment? Please help

    • Absolutely. If you have a strong work history 10/2015-09/2016, apply now.

      Otherwise, wait until April 2nd to apply – less than two weeks away. At that time, CA will use earnings Jan-Dec. 2016. Five months earnings should provide a pretty decent claim even if you haven’t worked before August.

      Otherwise, if you apply now and have no earnings before August, your claim will be for a shorter period and may not provide as good a benefit.

      Waiting two weeks may make all the difference in the quality of your claim, so examine your earnings history before applying.

  • Janet

    I worked total 4 months in the year 2016, and was laid off by a company with the last day for work on March 31, 2017. However, the company offers me the work for 3 more months as the 1099 employee after I was laid off. The question is below

    1) Can I still apply and be qualified for the unemployment benefits after 3 months of 1099 employee?

    • Absolutely not. Benefit eligibility is determined by your last job. The 1099 is not eligible for benefits.

      The time to apply is immediately upon discharge from the W-2 job – DO NOT work on 1099 for any employer, especially the one which discharged you, until the claim is approved.

  • Chris

    I have an employee who started working for us on 12/29/2016 and her last day will be 03/10/2017. She has earned way over the threshold of $1300. Will she be eligible for benefits or does CA require that she work the entire 1st quarter to qualify, so through 3/31? Or is the fact that she hit the threshold within the 1st quarter enough?

    • She doesn’t need to work an entire quarter. Earnings in the base period are what matter – and when she files for benefits. If she has no other earnings in 2016, she doesn’t qualify now – but she will in April. Filing no earlier than April 2nd, CA will include earnings through 3/31/2017, if necessary. If she files now, CA will use either earnings 10/2015-9/2016 or Jan-Dec. 2016.

      Essentially, claim eligibility is determined by 12-month base period earnings. CA first uses a standard base period which excludes the quarter in which one files and the quarter preceding that. If claimant doesn’t qualify under the standard base period, CA then uses its alternate base period which includes twelve-month earnings through the most recently completed quarter.

  • Jim Gillespie

    I am purchasing an existing company. The company has approximately 50 employees. From the day I acquire the company, if I wait 2-3 weeks to determine who I want to keep, I am still responsible for their unemployment or is it reflected against the prior owner? Is there a grace period for me?

    • Once you own the company, you own any obligations of that company. You discharge employees, your future UI taxes will be affected. If you don’t want the responsibility, consult with an atty – possibly the sale contract can compensate you in some way for these future discharges and assessments against your UI reserve account.

  • John Daley

    Hello, any help would be appreciated. I started working for this company Dec 1, 2016 this week I found out that they are shutting down our office. I am the office manager / warehouse manager so of course I will be out of a job. I have earned 7996.37 since I started on Dec 1, will I qualify for unemployment? Does it reset after Jan 1? Or am I screwed.

    • Length of time at the job isn’t what matters – unless you quit your previous job without cause or were fired for misconduct and haven’t earned 5x your weekly benefit amount at the new job necessary to purge the VQ/MC.

      Otherwise, you qualify on total earnings in your base period. CA will look at all your earnings between 10/1/2015-09/30/2016, or Jan.-Dec. 2016, whichever base period qualifies you first. You need to have earned at least $1,300 in one quarter, or have a high quarter of $900 + $225 outside that high quarter to qualify. You probably earned $1,300 in the month of December, alone.

      Apply for benefits. You may need to provide CA proof of earnings through 12/31/2016 as employer may not have yet reported the December quarter to CA.

      CA bases your weekly benefit on high quarter earnings, then divides 50% of total base period wages by weekly benefit amount to determine number of weeks paid. WBA charts are in CA’s handbook, here:

  • Marlowe

    I have been on SDI since 12/2015. I thought I could go back to work and I tried but could only get through 2 months. I did make over 1300. between August 2016 thru October 2016. Then my Doctor put me back on Disability.
    I am ready to go back to work now, but have been unsuccessful in finding work. I do have Doctors correspondence when I was unable to work. Am I eligible for UI , with only working the 2 months in 2016?

  • Heidi

    Hi, this is Heidi again regarding transitioning from SDI to UI. I’m pretty sure you meant to say if I apply 3/26/2017 I’ll keep that quarter. (you said 2016 so just making sure). But anyway, I’ll just go ahead and apply for UI right away then as long as doing so won’t affect the SDI I’m receiving or lower the amount I’d potentially get on UI. So you’re saying it won’t right?
    You said “You won’t get 26 weeks because, generally, unless you are very highly paid, three months wages aren’t enough for a 26-week claim. CA bases the benefit on amount of high quarter, and then divides that benefit into 50% of total base period wages to determine number of weeks.”
    I’m really confused because if my base period is from Oct. 2015-Sept. 2016 like you said, then I would have six months of wages, not three, as I didn’t go on disability till April 1, 2016 and was working from Oct. 2015 – April 2016. I would guesstimate my total wages for those six months at about $14,000 and my highest quarter out of those two around $7500 so can you explain what you mean by them taking that $7500 and dividing into 50% of total base period wages to determine number of weeks? I’m sorry but I don’t understand. Thanks for all the help, I really appreciate it!

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