New York Unemployment – Know Your Rights

  Last Verified: January 2017  

Unemployment in New York is handled by the New York State Department of Labor. Filing for unemployment is fairly simple and the DOL recommends filing online for the quickest response. The Department instituted reforms beginning in 2014 due to legislation by the NY state leadership, who believed the amount of compensation in NY had not kept pace with the increases in cost of living. This article will keep you abreast of the latest developments in the process of obtaining unemployment benefits in NY.

New York workers looking for assistance may also contact the Claimant Advocate Office. The title is slightly misleading as this office is not set up to argue a problem on your behalf. It does offer advice to claimants who need help in understanding unemployment insurance rules, processes and decisions.

Seal of New_York

Eligibility for Unemployment in NY

The requirements to collect unemployment insurance in New York are similar to most other states. In order to qualify for unemployment benefits, you must have worked for an employer covered by the state unemployment law, and earned enough wages within a 12-month period. There is an additional eligibility test, and to pass, you should be:


  • unemployed through no fault of your own
  • able and available to work
  • legally allowed to work in the US or be a US citizen

The state will examine your wages over a 12-month period to determine if you pass the wage earnings requirement. Then, the examiner will examine other issues separately. If the state finds that you are eligible, the state will inform you of how much you will receive.

Eligibility Requirements Explained

Unemployed Through No Fault of Your Own

Your actions or decisions cannot be the cause of your separation from work. If you quit without a good cause connected to your work, the state will deny your claim. If your employer fired you for actions considered to disregard their interests, the state may consider that misconduct connected to work. So then, the state may deny your claim.

Able and Available

You must be physically and mentally able to work when you file your initial claim for benefits. You must be available to accept any reasonable job offer. A reasonable offer is for a job you’ve been trained to perform at a salary similar to your previous position.

Legal to Work in the US

You must be a US citizen or be able to provide proof that you can work legally in the US to be eligible to receive benefits. You must have worked in New York during the base period to be eligible.

As a condition of receiving benefits after the state approves your initial claim, you must show you are actively looking for work. Also, you may not refuse a reasonable job offer.

Wage Earnings Requirement and the Base Period

The state requires that you earn enough wages within a 12-month period, called the base period, to be eligible to receive benefits. The base period is the first four out of the last five quarters prior to your filing your initial claim.

unemployment base period
This chart shows the base period.
  • You must have collected wages from working in at least two calendar quarters (3 month periods) in your base period AND
  • You must have earned at least $1,900 in one calendar quarter of your base period for wages earned in 2016. The amount will increase to $2,100 in 2017.
  • The total wages paid to you must be at least 1.5 times the amount paid to you in your high quarter.  Exception: If your high quarter
    wages were $9,350 or more, you must have been paid at least $4,675 (half of $9,350) total in the other three quarters of your base period.  Example: Your high quarter wages were $4,000. You must have been paid at least $6,000 ($4,000 x 1.5 = $6,000) total for all four quarters of your base period.

If you do not qualify using the standard base period, the state will examine your wages over the last 12 -months prior to your filing a claim. You may ask the state to use the alternative base period if you think your benefit amount will be higher as a result.

Calculating Your Unemployment Benefits

The Department uses the base period wages to determine how much you’ll receive each week, your weekly benefit amount (WBA). If you received wages in all four quarters of your base period and your highest quarter wages are:

  • More than $3, 575, your WBA will equal the wages from your highest paid quarter divided by 26. If that calculation is $143 or less, your WBA will be $143.
  • Less than or equal to $3,575, then your WBA your high quarter wages divided by 25 or $100, whichever is higher.

If you earned wages in only two or three quarters of your base period and the wages in the highest quarter are:

  • More than $4,000, your WBA will be the average of your two highest quarters divided by 26. If that’s less than $143, then your WBA will be $143.
  • From 3,576 to $4,000, then your WBA will equal the wages from your highest paid quarter divided by 26.
  • $3,575 or less, then your WBA is your high quarter wages divided by 25 or $100, whichever is higher.
The maximum WBA you can receive in New York is currently $430. The amount increases annually. The minimum also will increase regularly and is currently $100.
The Department will notify you of their wage earnings requirement calculation and your potential WBA in the Monetary Benefit Determination notice. Receiving this notice does not mean that the state approved your benefit claim. You still must be otherwise eligible to receive benefits.

How to Apply for Unemployment in NY

You should file your claim for unemployment insurance within the first week of being completely or partially unemployed. If you wait longer, you can potentially lose your benefits. There is a waiting period of one week before you begin receiving benefits.

You cannot file during a week in which you work for 4 or more days or gross a weekly income of over $420. In those circumstances, you will have to wait until the following Monday to file.

What you need to file your claim

Before you file your claim, you will need the following:

  • Social Security Number
  • Driver’s license or state issued ID
  • Contact information (mailing address and phone number where you can be reached between 8am-5pm Monday-Friday)
  • Alien registration card number if you are not a U.S citizen
  • Information of your employers for the past 18 months (names and addresses)
  • Most recent employer’s Federal Employer Identification Number (FEIN). This can be found on your past W-2 forms.
  • For federal employees, copies of your SF8 and SF50 forms.
  • Your bank’s routing number and checking account number if you choose direct deposit.

How to apply

You can file your claim online. You will need your NY.GOV ID which you can create here. Once you create your ID, you can sign in on the same page to access the application. You can file your claim online:

  • Monday-Thursday: 7:30AM-7:30PM
  • Friday: 7:30AM-5:00PM
  • Saturday: All day
  • Sunday: Until 7:00PM

Alternatively, you can file over the phone Monday-Friday between 8AM-5PM by calling the Telephone Claims Center at (888) 209-8124. For the hearing impaired, you may call (888) 783-1370.

Only the claimant may use the online system to file for unemployment benefits. If this is your first time filing for unemployment in New York, you will have to create a PIN. You cannot share this PIN with anyone else.

If you are disabled or otherwise unable to complete the application yourself, you must be present while another person helps you through the process. Allowing someone else to use your PIN number without you being present can result in a loss of up to 20 weeks of unemployment benefits. For more information on having someone help you file for unemployment insurance in New York, see this Fact Sheet.

You must make a new claim every week you want to receive benefits. The unemployment week begins Sunday and ends Saturday, so you must certify your claim each Sunday.

After you file your claim, the DOL will send you a Monetary Determination letter that shows all of the information used to determine whether or not you are eligible for benefits as well as how much you will receive. It is extremely important that you check this form for accuracy. If something is incorrect, you must complete a Request for Reconsideration Form.

Maintaining Eligibility and Weekly Certifications

The state requires that you maintain eligibility throughout the time you receive benefits. You will have to file a claim each week, called certifying for benefits. You’ll perform the task in the same manner as you did filing your initial claim. You can certify online or with the Tel-Service.

You will have to answer certain questions regarding your status. The Department wants to know if you:

  • Remain able and available to work
  • Whether you’re looking for work
  • Whether you have start or quit a job
  • Whether you refused a job offer
  • Whether you earned any wages or had any income

You claim your benefits at the end of your benefit week. A benefit week runs from Monday until Sunday.

Part-time Work and Unemployment Benefits

You can work part-time and still receive benefits as long as the wages you earn don’t exceed your WBA. You have to report your wages during the week you earned them. If you don’t report your wages correctly, you may lose your benefit payment or the right to future payments. You may face fraud charges.

If you work a certain amount during the week, the state will deduct money from your WBA. If you work fewer than four days in a week and earn less than your WBA, you can receive partial benefits. If you work:

  • one day, the you receive 3/4 of your WBA
  • two days, you receive 1/2 of your WBA
  • three days, you receive 1/4 of your WBA

It doesn’t matter how many hours you worked, you must count the entire day, even if you only worked an hour.

Work Search Requirement

You must be actively engaged in the job hunt to receive benefits. If your wages are based on full-time work, you still have to look for full-time work if you are working part-time and receiving partial benefits.

The state requires that you perform at least three job search activities during each week you receive benefits. You must perform at least one of the acceptable activities numbered 1 through 5 below, and two from all nine listed.

  1. Using employment resources available at the local New York State Career Center, such as:
    1. Meeting with Career Center advisors;
    2. Getting information from Career Center staff about jobs that may be available in a particular industry or region (obtaining job market information);
    3. Working with Career Center staff to assess your skills and match them to possible occupations and jobs (skills assessments for occupation matching);
    4. Participating in instructional workshops; and
    5. Getting job referrals and job matches from the Career Center and following up with employers.
  2. Visiting a job site and completing a job application in person with employers who may be reasonably expected to have openings.
  3. Submitting a job application and/or resume in response to a public notice or want ad or to employers who may reasonably be expected to have openings.
  4. Attending job search seminars, scheduled career networking meetings, job fairs or job search workshops
  5. Interviewing with possible employers.
  6. Applying for employment with former employer(s).
  7. Registering with and checking in with private employment agencies, placement services, unions and placement offices of schools, colleges or universities and/or professional organizations.
  8. Using the telephone, business directories, internet or online job-matching systems to search for jobs, get leads, request referrals or make appointments for job interviews.
  9. Applying and/or registering for and taking Civil Service examination(s) for government job openings

You will have to keep a written record of your job search activities. You may use the state’s recommended online tool Job Zone to keep records.

The state may require some workers to create a Work Search Plan. It will be a contract between you and the job search advisor the state assigns to work with you.

Reasons for Denial of Benefits

If you do not earn enough money in your base period, the state will deny benefits. The state will inform you in the Monetary Determination notice. You may request a redetermination of your base period wages, or you may appeal the decision to the Unemployment Insurance Appeal Board.

This is only the first inquiry that will answer whether you receive benefits. The claims examiner will look at issues regarding your separation from work, and whether you quit without good cause or were dismissed by your employer for misconduct. If your actions or decisions caused the separation from work, the Department will deny benefits.

If you quit because you could not get child care, you quit for personal reasons that are not “connected to work,” as child care is generally a personal responsibility. If you quit to return to school full-time, you quit for a good cause, but for personal reasons unconnected to work.

If your employer fires you because you repeatedly violated policy after repeated warnings, the claims examiner is likely to determine that your employer dismissed you because of misconduct. With regards to a benefit determination, misconduct is some action that shows a lack of concern for the employer’s interests.

Other issues

You may be eligible based on your wages and separation from work. Still, there are other reasons the state may deny benefits.

  • You were unable to work
  • You were unavailable to work
  • You lost your job because of some criminal action connected to work
  • You refused an offer for suitable employment
  • You are on strike

You may appeal any decision or determination against you to the Board. Please see our article on filing an appeal for more information.

Payments

Once you have been approved to receive benefits, payments are delivered through a Direct Payment Card or through direct deposit in your checking account. The Direct Payment Card functions like a debit card. Money can be withdrawn from an ATM or swiped at just like a credit/debit card.

You are eligible to receive benefits for up to one year but can only receive 26 times your full weekly rate. So if your rate is $200 a week, you can receive up to $5,200.

The state has during times of high unemployment, offered extended benefits. The federal government authorized Emergency Unemployment Compensation during the most recent recession. Such payments are not currently available, buy may occur should the situation change.

Payments are deposited once a week for each week you file online. If you fail to file, you will not receive benefits for that week. If you do not certify for a week of benefits, you can write a letter to the DOL at:

New York State Department of Labor

Central Support Unit

PO Box 15130

Albany NY 12212

In the letter you must include your contact info (name, address, phone number) SSN, Dates you wish to be credited for, and the reason why you failed to claim benefits.

Contact Information and Resources

DOL Phone number: (888) 209-8124

Email DOL: https://labor.ny.gov/secure/contact/

DOL Address: New York State Department of Labor, P.O. Box 15130, Albany, NY 12212-5130

Claim weekly benefits: 1-888-581-5812

Filing online: https://applications.labor.ny.gov/Individual/

Direct Pay Card Information: (877) 221-1634

Report overpayments: (800) 533-6600

Report Fraud: (1-888) 598-2077

NY Unemployment Claims handbook: https://labor.ny.gov/formsdocs/ui/TC318.3e.pdf

Benefits rate calculator: https://labor.ny.gov/ui/claimantinfo/ExtendedBenefits.shtm