How To Calculate Your Unemployment Benefits

Unemployment Benefits and Eligiblity

The Balance

How much unemployment compensation will you receive when you lose your job, and how long can you collect benefits for? Unfortunately, there's no easy way to calculate exactly how much money you'll receive through unemployment benefits or for how long you'll be able to collect those benefits, unless your state has an online unemployment calculator. However, there are calculators you can use to estimate your benefits.

Each state has a different rate, and benefits vary based on your earnings record and the date you became unemployed. Once you find out whether you are eligible, you can file a claim for unemployment benefits. If you're not sure about your eligibility, check with your state unemployment office. You don't want to lose out on unemployment compensation because you didn't think you would qualify.

Review information on eligibility for unemployment, how much compensation you'll receive, and how long you can collect benefits.

Key Takeaways

  • Your unemployment compensation will depend on your weekly earnings before being laid off and the maximum unemployment benefits paid in your state.
  • Unemployment benefits are typically paid for a maximum of 26 weeks, depending on location. Some states provide fewer weeks of benefits.
  • Some states have unemployment calculators you can use to estimate your earnings. Check your state unemployment website for details.
  • Unemployment benefits are taxable on both the federal and state level.

Are You Eligible for Unemployment?

First, make sure you are eligible for unemployment. While it varies based on your state, you generally need two things to qualify. First, you need to have lost your job through no fault of your own. It typically means you are ineligible if you quit—although there are exceptions, like if you quit because of impossible work conditions. If you are fired for cause, you also are likely ineligible.

You also need to have been employed for a minimum amount of time or have earned a minimum amount in compensation.

Once you find out whether you are eligible, you can file a claim for unemployment benefits.


If you're not sure about your eligibility, check with your state unemployment office. You don't want to lose out on unemployment compensation because you didn't think you would qualify.

How Much Will Your Benefits Be?

Once you file for unemployment and are approved, you will begin to receive benefits. Your benefits might come in the form of a check, but more often they will come in the form of a debit card or direct deposit to your bank account. It varies by state. You typically can file weekly online, by email, or by phone.

The amount you receive depends on your weekly earnings prior to being laid off and on the maximum amount of unemployment benefits paid to each worker. In many states, you will be compensated for half of your earnings, up to a certain maximum.

State benefits are typically paid for a maximum of 26 weeks. Some states provide benefits for a lower number of weeks, and maximum benefits also vary based on where you live. In times of high unemployment, additional weeks of unemployment compensation may be available.

Regardless of how much you make, you can't collect more than the state maximum.


The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has a chart listing the number of weeks of unemployment benefits available in each state.

Finding a Benefits Calculator

There are two types of unemployment calculators. One tells you how much money you are entitled to collect, and another tells you how many weeks your benefits will last.

State Benefits Calculators

New York, for example, has a UI Benefits Calculator on which you can enter the starting date of your original claim to determine how many weeks of UI (Regular Unemployment Insurance Benefits) you will receive.

Wisconsin has a Weekly Benefit Rate Calculator that helps you figure out the amount of your unemployment benefits.

Check with your state unemployment office website to see if it has any information that might help. If one is available, you can usually find it in the FAQ section of its website. If the office doesn't have a calculator, it may have a chart that lists weeks of eligibility. You can use that information to determine how many weeks of unemployment you are entitled to collect.

If you are struggling to find information on your state unemployment office website, you could contact the office via phone or email. You can get information about the location of the office, the phone number, and any email addresses under the “Contact Us” section of the unemployment office website. However, it often is difficult to get through to an unemployment office over the phone. Most offices encourage you to file claims and calculate benefits online.

When You'll Get Paid

Most states pay benefits on a weekly or biweekly basis. There may be a lag before you receive your first check. For details on when to expect payment, check the unemployment website for your state.

Taxes on Unemployment

Unemployment benefits are considered taxable income, and the unemployment compensation you receive must be reported when you file your federal and state tax returns.

Both state unemployment benefits and federally funded extended benefits are considered income and must be reported when you file your federal and state tax returns.

Supplemental unemployment benefits (SUB) received from a company-financed fund are not considered unemployment compensation. Rather, these benefits are fully taxable as wages and are reported on Form W-2 as income.

Tax Withholding

Some states withhold a percentage of your unemployment benefits to cover taxes—typically 10%. If the option to have taxes withheld is available, you will be notified when you sign up for unemployment.

It's a good idea to consider having taxes taken out of your checks rather than having to pay income taxes on all the unemployment you received when you file your tax returns for the relevant year.

Tax Reporting Requirements

If you received unemployment compensation during the year, you should receive Form 1099-G, which is a report of income received from a government source, showing the amount you were paid. Any unemployment compensation received must be included in your income and should be reported in the appropriate sections of your federal and state tax returns.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How much can you earn on unemployment?

The amount of unemployment compensation will vary based on state law and your prior earnings. In some states, maximum unemployment benefits are less than 50% of a worker's salary.

Should you use a third-party website to file for unemployment?

Some websites say they will figure out your unemployment benefits or file a claim for you. However, the only place you can get a definitive answer or file for benefits is on your state unemployment website. ​Avoid getting scammed, and do not give personal information to a third-party website.

Was this page helpful?
The Balance uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. U.S. Department of Labor. "State Unemployment Insurance Benefits."

  2. U.S. Department of Labor. "How Do I File for Unemployment Insurance?"

  3. NCLS. "Unemployment Insurance Funding Overview."

  4. U.S. Department of Labor. "Unemployment Insurance Extended Benefits."

  5. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. "Policy Basics: How Many Weeks of Unemployment Compensation Are Available?"

  6. Internal Revenue Service. "Unemployment Compensation."

  7. Internal Revenue Service. "Topic No. 418 Unemployment Compensation."

  8. Transition Services, Inc. "The Complete Guide to Supplemental Unemployment Benefits."

Related Articles