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Unemployment Options

Roughly two million Americans utilize unemployment insurance benefits every year, primarily for very short periods of time. Still, only about a quarter of people eligible for unemployment apply for it, mostly due to stigma or other circumstances. Because unemployment typically pays a percentage of your previous wage, it can be a big help in getting you through until your next job starts.

How to apply for unemployment benefits

Accessing unemployment benefits varies between states, but most make it relatively simple to apply. Start off by searching for unemployment benefits in your state and finding the correct state agency, which will then take you through the step-by-step process of applying. In general, states will ask for information about your previous employer, your previous salary, how long you’ve lived in the state, as well as information about your job search.

Eligibility for unemployment benefits

Eligibility requirements also vary state-by-state, so it’s worthwhile to check those first before applying. Eligibility generally depends on a number of simple factors including how you left your previous employer, if you have other sources of income, and if you are physically able to work. Some states require applicants to meet weekly eligibility requirements to receive their benefits. Those requirements can include proof of an active job search and the willingness to accept any work in your given field. Failing to meet eligibility requirements may preclude you from collecting for a given week, or from collecting benefits all together.

Forget the stigma

Many people are reluctant to sign up for unemployment benefits because there is still a stigma of shame surrounding the process. People who have been successful in business for most of their careers may see collecting unemployment as a failure. But this type of thinking not only does a disservice to those collecting unemployment, but you’re also hurting yourself in the process. Unemployment benefits are not intended to be a long-term solution, but rather a temporary stopgap measure. Think of unemployment not as a crutch or a sign of failure, but rather as a financial tool to help get you through a difficult situation.

Below you will find additional information and resources for unemployment benefits:

Find unemployment benefits by state

General explanation of unemployment benefits

Overcome the stigma of long-term unemployment

Resource tool for exploring all types of government benefits