Unemployment Glossary

Figuring out Unemployment rates, facts, stats, and benefits in the United States can be a challenge.

aboutunemployment.org is here to help you succeed. We've broken down the technical language and terminology so that figuring out your unemployment situation doesn't have to be any harder than it needs to be!

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TermDefinition
National Unemployment Rate All jobless persons who are actively seeking work are included, whether or not they are receiving unemployment insurance (UI). Additionally, temporarily laid off individuals are included in the count, even if they are not actively seeking work. People who are unemployed and want to work, but are not actively looking for work, are not included in the unemployment rate count.
recipiency rateThe recipiency rate is calculated by the proportion of jobless workers receiving unemployment benefits from state agencies.
Long-Term Unemployed Long-Term Unemployed persons are jobless individuals who have been searching for work for 27 weeks or more (6 months or more).
Covered Employer/Employment An employer or employing unit is covered under unemployment insurance if it paid at least $1,500 in wages during any calendar quarter in the current or previous calendar year. Further, an employer/employing unit is also covered under unemployment insurance if it paid wages to at least one employee and employed said worker at least one day per week during the 20 weeks of the current or previous calendar year. Please note that only approximately half of states use this definition in determining eligibility based on employer qualifications (also, this is typically not applicable to agricultural or domestic labors). States that use other definitions will be discussed in state-specific articles. These states include: AK, DC, MA, MT, NM, PA, UT, WY, AR, HI, MI, NV, NY, PR, VI, CA, MD, MN, NJ, OR, RI, and WA.
Regular Base PeriodUses wages from the first four of the last five completed calendar quarters to determine your eligibility for Unemployment Insurance. Your base period begins on your effective date from your initial claim, and it spans a period of 12 months. The majority of states use the first four of the last five completed calendar quarters preceding the filing of an unemployment claim as the base period.
Quarter 1January, February, March
Quarter 2April, May, June
Quarter 3July, August, September
Quarter 4October, November, December
Alternate Base PeriodUses wages from the last four of the past five completed calendar quarters in determining your eligibility for Unemployment Insurance
Extended Base PeriodSome states allow jobless persons who have a one month gap in employment showing up when using the regular base period to use an extended base period, which considers more of your work history.
High-Quarter Wages (HQW)HQW requires workers to have earned a minimum dollar amount in the quarter which the worker had the highest earnings of his/her base period.
Weekly Benefit Amount (WBA)The amount in weekly unemployment insurance benefits you are eligible to received based off of wages earned in the base period.
Flat Qualifying Amount (FQA) requires a minimum dollar amount to have been earned during the base period.
Monetary Eligibility Minimum wage requirements in regards to earnings across base period quarters considered out of the calendar year.
Non-Monetary Eligibility Eligibility requirements on your separation from previous employment, ability and availability to work, participation in work search, adherence to instructions
combination resumea combination between the chronological and functional resume. It provides a timeline of job history but highlights your unique skill sets.
chronological resumefocuses on the duties and time period of each job starting with the most recent
functional resumehones in on the skills acquired rather than each individual job experience, and it usually neglects to include any sort of timeline.
Annual Wage MethodIn order to determine your benefit amount, some states calculate weekly benefits as a percentage of the annual wages in a base period.
new claimYour initial unemployment claim used to determine if the time you spent employed over the past 12 months was covered under state or federal unemployment compensation laws and if you earned enough wages during that time.
benefit yearthe amount of time you are potentially eligible to receive unemployment benefits during, typically spanning a period of 52-weeks
Maximum Benefit Amount (MBA)The maximum amount in benefit payments you are eligible to receive within your determined benefit year
Partially Unemployed you were initially hired as a full-time employee, but your hours and earnings were later reduced because of circumstances beyond your control.
Totally Unemployed your previous employment circumstances were completely severed through no fault of your own, and you continue to be separate from employment, not earning wages or performing services.
effective date (beginning date)The date assigned to your initial claim, which is typically always a Sunday and the Sunday after you initially file will likely be used as the effective date.
Low Earnings ReportWhen your employer reduces your full-time hours to part-time hours, then a Low Earnings Report is typically filed, which initiates the effective date of your unemployment insurance claim
redeterminationTypically the first stage of the appeals process. It is a formal review of the wages in question.
re-certify you have to apply each week with proof that you still meet the requirements and are actively seeking work
Overpayments Occurs when you receive a benefit payment that is more than the amount you are eligible for based upon your base period wages. All states reduce benefits otherwise payable to recover earlier UI overpayments.
Good Cause for Voluntarily LeavingYou will be disqualified from receiving unemployment insurance benefits unless you voluntarily left your previous job for a good cause
Period of Disqualificationif you are disqualified from receiving unemployment insurance benefits, then you are typically disqualified until you secure new employment. You may refile for unemployment should you become unemployed through no fault of your own.
Availability for Workbeing ready, willing, and
able to work
Actively Seeking WorkIn addition to registration for work at a local employment office, all states,
whether by law or practice, require that an individual be actively seeking work or making a reasonable effort to
obtain work
First Payments The first payment in a benefit year for a week of
unemployment claimed under a specific program. This is
used as a proxy for "beneficiaries" under a specific
program.
Taxable Wages Wages paid to covered employees that are subject to State
Unemployment Insurance taxes.
Taxable Wage Base the maximum amount of wages paid to an
employee by an employer during a tax year which are
subject to UI taxes

2 comments

  • Chris Ellenbart

    I forgot to claim my weekly benefits of the week of January 8th. Please call me so I can get this resolved I’m currently getting no money from New Jersey unemployment because I owe them money so they are paying off what I owe first and I really need to get that week I missed claimed, I havent had any money since November. My bills are so behind and I’m about to get evicted 609-334-6754

    • No one here will be calling you back. This is an independent forum NOT connect to any state. You should still be able to claim weeking ending 1/7 online. If not, you need to call or visit a NJ office ASAP. Do that this week.

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