Can I Work Part-Time and Still Collect Unemployment Benefits?

  Last Verified: January 2017  

Yes!  But working part-time while collecting benefits has advantages and pitfalls.

Advantages

Working while collecting benefits can extend the length of time within the claim’s benefit year in which you are able to collect benefits.  In most states, a partial benefit formula is used (see below for various state formulas) whereby a portion of your earnings is deducted from the weekly benefit amount and you are paid the difference.  Some states are more generous in their earnings allowances than others.

More importantly, earnings during your current benefit year create eligibility for a requalifying claim at expiration of the first benefit year.  Often a requalifying claim can provide benefits equivalent to those of the first claim – especially if a strong LAG (unused earnings) remains from the first claim.   If one doesn’t work during the first benefit year, that LAG cannot be utilized.

Pitfalls

These are almost always issues of separation and/or suspension of benefits, temp agencies, and cost-effectiveness of working.

Separation: Know that you cannot quit a part-time job “just because” without “good cause.”  Also, being discharged for a disqualifying reason will cause your state to stop benefits until you work and experience another qualifying separation.   So, be careful in the type of work you accept.

Suspension of benefits: Be aware that any week you earn too much and are not paid a benefit, most states will close the claim.  This is nothing to be alarmed about, but you will need to call the state to reopen the claim.    Or, you may report part-time earnings most weeks, and then have none.  Again, most states will suspend payment until you explain the lack of earnings that week.

Temp Agencies: Temp agencies are notorious for calling the end of a job a “quit.”  Doing so, means claimant must prove otherwise to get their benefits back.  The agencies get away with this because in most states if the claimant does not maintain contact with the agency after the job ends, claimant has been deemed to have quit.  Therefore, when that temp job ends, continue to follow up with the agency requesting new work, keep a good paper trail of your contacts, use email, follow up with phone calls, and keep a log of date/time/contact person.   You will need this evidence to refute any “quit” allegations.

Cost-Effectiveness: Before accepting part-time work, carefully consider whether the risk of a bad separation and possible loss of benefits is worth what little you might be netting.  In some states, you are allowed to keep so little of your benefit that, after payroll taxes and costs of traveling to and fro, you are ultimately working for only a few dollars an hour over and above what your benefit would be.

How Much of My Benefit Will Be Paid If I Work Part-time?

State formulas vary but, in general, provide an earnings disregard, after which gross earnings are deducted dollar for dollar from the weekly benefit.

Most punitive states when working part-time are (1) NY which docks 25% of the weekly benefit for every day or “part” of a day worked;  and, even worse, (2) Michigan which removes an entire week’s allotment from the claim award regardless of earnings.

Otherwise, most partial benefit formulas resemble the examples below.

Alabama – weekly benefit of $200+33%=Partial Benefit of $266, from which are deducted all gross earnings.  No benefit is paid if earnings equal $200.

California:  weekly benefit of $200 is reduced by 75% of gross earnings of $150, or $112.50 rounded up to $113, for a net benefit of $87; no benefit is paid if earnings equal $200.

Idahoweekly benefit of $200+50%=Partial Benefit of $300, from which are deducted all gross earnings.  No benefit is paid if earnings equal $300.

PARTIAL BENEFIT FORMULAS BY STATE

AL       WBA+33%, less gross earnings; no payment if earnings equal WBA

AK      25% of gross earnings + $50 deducted from WBA; no payment if earnings equal to WBA+33%+$50

AR      WBA+40%, less gross earnings; no payment if earnings equal WBA+40%

AZ       WBA+$30, less gross earnings; no payment if earnings equal WBA

CA      75% of gross earnings deducted from benefit, no payment if earnings equal WBA

CO      WBA+25%, less gross earnings; no payment if earnings equal WBA

CT       67% of gross earnings deducted from benefit; no payment if earnings equal the greater of WBA+$10 or WBA+50%­­

DE       WBA+50%, less gross earnings; no payment if earnings equal WBA +50%

DC      WBA+20%+$20, less gross earnings; no payment if earnings equal WBA+$20

FL       WBA+$58, less gross earnings; no payment if earnings equal WBA

GA      WBA+$50, less gross earnings; no payment if earnings equal WBA

HI        Gross earnings less $150 deducted from WBA; no payment if earnings equal WBA

ID        WBA+50%, less gross earnings; no payment if earnings equal WBA+50%

IL        WBA+50%, less gross earnings; no payment if earnings equal WBA

IN        WBA+20%, less gross earnings; no payment if earnings equal WBA

IA        WBA+25%, less gross earnings; no payment if earnings equal WBA+$15

KS       WBA+25%, less gross earnings; no payment if earnings equal WBA

KY      WBA+20%, less gross earnings; no payment if earnings equal WBA+25%

LA       WBA+50%, less gross earnings; no payment if earnings equal WBA

ME      WBA+$25, less gross earnings; no payment if earnings equal WBA+$5

MD      WBA+$50, less gross earnings; no payment if earnings equal Augmented WBA

MA      WBA+33%, less gross earnings; no payment if earnings equal WBA+DA

MI       60% of gross earnings deducted from benefit and entire “week” of benefit is removed from the claim award regardless of earnings; no payment if earnings equal WBA+40%

MN      50% of gross earnings deducted from benefit; no payment if earnings equal WBA

MS      WBA+$40, less gross earnings; no payment of earnings equal WBA

MO      WBA+20%, less gross earnings; no payment if earnings equal the greater of WBA+20% or WBA+$20

MT      50% of gross earnings in excess of WBA+25% deducted from benefit; no payment if earnings equal to 2xWBA

NE       WBA+25%, less gross earnings; no payment if earnings equal WBA

NV      75% of gross earnings deducted from benefit, no payment if earnings equal WBA

NH      WBA+30%, less gross earnings; no payment if earnings equal WBA

NJ        WBA+20%, less gross earnings; no payment if earnings equal WBA+20%

NM      WBA+20%, less gross earnings; no payment if earnings equal WBA

NY      WBA reduced 25% for each “day” worked; no payment if earnings equal WBA

NC      WBA+20%, less gross earnings; paid only in a week of less than 3 customary scheduled full-time days

ND      WBA+60%, less gross earnings; no payment if earnings equal WBA

OH      WBA+20%, less gross earnings; no payment if earnings equal WBA

OK      WBA+$100, less gross earnings; no payment if earnings equal WBA+$100

OR      WBA+33% (or 10 x state minimum wage in the prior year), less gross earnings; no payment if earnings equal WBA

PA       WBA+30%, less gross earnings; no payment if earnings equal WBA+30%

RI        WBA+20%, less gross earnings; no payment if earnings equal WBA

SC       WBA+25%, less gross earnings; no payment if earnings equal WBA

SD       WBA, less 75% of gross earnings in excess of $25; no payment if earnings equal to WBA

TN       WBA+25%, less gross earnings; no payment if earnings equal WBA

TX       WBA+25%, less gross earnings; no payment if earnings exceed 125% of WBA

UT       WBA+30%, less gross earnings; no payment if earnings equal WBA

VT       WBA+30%, less gross earnings; no payment if earnings equal WBA+$15

VA      WBA+$50, less gross earnings; no payment if earnings equal WBA

WA     75% of gross earnings deducted from benefit; no payment if earnings equal WBA+33%+$5

WV     WBA+$60, less gross earnings; no payment if earnings equal WBA+$61

WI       WBA, less 67% of earnings in excess of $30; no payment if earnings equal to WBA

WY     WBA+50%, less gross earnings; no payment if earnings equal WBA

 

21 comments

  • Jim

    I have been offered a one-day freelance assignment that will pay about 4 times the amount of my weekly unemployment benefit. I understand that I will not be eligible for benefits the week I do that work. But does this affect my benefit status for the 3 weeks after that or just that one week? This is in New Jersey.

    • Only your benefits for the week you work will be affected. You can either file a weekly certification, reporting those earnings – or just not certify that week at all. Some states will require you REOPEN the claim before allowing you to certify going forward. Others allow two weeks to go by without payment before closing the claim. If that happens, you should call to reopen the claim. The phone rep may be able to approve the reopen and avoid this delay.

      • Jim

        Thank you. Do you happen to know if New Jersey requires me to reopen the claim before allowing me to certify going forward?

        • I think NJ allows two weeks before closing the claim. Since it’s NJ, I recommend not claiming that week at all. Then NJ won’t have q’s on why you don’t report income the following week. If you can’t claim the following week, call NJ to reopen. You can reopen online, but NJ will still need to investigate the break in claim, so it’s better to speak to someone if you can. NJ also has career center offices with phone banks direct to reps if you can’t get through otherwise. Hopefully, you won’t need to do any of that.

  • Dan

    I am a Georgia resident and “on demand employee” for a government contractor who has offices in multiple states, It’s a big holding company with multiple LLCs. The division I work for is headquartered in Massachusetts. Normally during the year I work 3-4 months on followed by 2-3 months off, without pay. Although my schedule is not set in stone, and I’m usually only notified two weeks in advance of whether or not they have work for me.

    Am I able to apply for un-employment benefits during the months that I am out of work, even though I have not been fired or terminated? If so, from what state? And finally can I be punished at work for applying for said benefits?

    • Certainly you might qualify if you have sufficient wages in your base period. You are allowed one state claim in any 52-week period, although you could have separate claims in two different states in the same period, provided the first claim is exhausted. If there is any money remaining in the claim when you are called back to work and the benefit year has not yet expired, the balance remains for you to draw on when you are next laid off (you REOPEN that claim).

      For now, you apply in the state in which you performed the work. Based on your post, it would appear that is GA. If GA finds no wages for you, apply in MA. If MA shows no wages for you, contact your employer on where you would apply. Your employer is free to react to your application for benefits in any way it chooses up to and including firing you.

      • Dan

        Good to know, I’d be nice to get a little extra help paying the bills, when I’m out of work. But unfortunately my employer would probably fire me out of spite if I applied for the benefit. I think I’m better off having a job to come back to….

  • Pamela Clay

    If I’m bringing home $200.00 every week am I allowed to collect unemployement. This isn’t enough to take care of my monthly bills.

  • Vassiliki Rigos

    I was docked hours from 25-30 part-time in a retail establishment this past winter. I finally was looking for another position in an insurance firm, but this also did not work out in the long run as I needed a car and familiarity with the greater Boston area which I do not have. I am now seeking some work, but not having an easy time as I have a degree in Education but was only temporarily certified, so cannot teach in the public schools. Can I qualify for unemployment as I have been working from July of 2015 up to March of 2017? I also worked for the same retail company in Virginia, before moving up here to be with my family.

    • You worked until March 2017 in MA? Why are you not working any longer? Why didn’t you apply in March when you lost your job? If you quit that job because of car issues, you are not eligible for benefits. Transportation is a personal issue and not the fault of the employer.

  • Christine

    Im in sc and my employer give me 30-35 hrs some weeks and 24-28 some weeks i used to never have less than 35 hrs and the difference is killing my financial situation. Would I qualify for benefits even though some weeks i do still work fulltime. I was also hired and have been working fulltime for two years there. This is a recent change.

    • Your hours reduction isn’t sufficient for you to receive a benefit. Your benefit will be 50% of your weekly wage. If you work part-time, SC adds 25% to the weekly benefit and then deducts gross earnings.

      For example, if you are earning $500/wk or $14.28/hr., your partial benefit will be $250+25%=$312.50. From $312.50 SC will deduct $399 (28 hrs x $14.28). You receive nothing.

  • Leland Billotte

    I am receiving NY unemployment at the max pay ($430). I started my claim July 14th 2017 and I am currently living in PA.

    If I take a freelance position that is 3 days a week (20 hours) and exceeds $430, it is my understanding that I will loose my weekly pay.

    My questions is after the freelance position is up (30 days) am I able to pick back up on unemployment? Thank you for your help.

    Leland Billotte

  • Mariah Monsanto

    I work 25 hours/week for a nonprofit @$14/hr. Of those 25 hours, only 9 of them have to be on-site. Can I still apply for unemployment/will I qualify?

  • Antoinette

    What happens if you are laid off and have the opportunity to do some consulting for a few weeks for another company? Can you defer filing until after the consulting is completed or do you lose the benefit?

    • No, you should not defer. You apply NOW. Your eligibility for benefits is based on your last W-2 employment with insured wages. If you do consulting work before you apply for benefits and if this is considered self-employed 1099 work, this then becomes your “last” work and you are ineligible for benefits until you experience another qualifying separation from a W-2 employer. 1099/SE work is not qualified employment for UI benefits.

      Do no self-employed or 1099 work at all until you’ve applied for benefits and the claim is established. Process might take three-four weeks.

      Further, applying now preserves as many wages as possible in the LAG which could provide an excellent second year claim should you have insured wages during the current benefit year.

      If this consulting work is W-2, you still apply now – before you begin this job. You can work while your state is processing the claim. You just don’t claim benefits for the weeks you work. About the time the job ends, your state should be in a position to begin payments. At that time you call your state to REOPEN this claim.

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