Unemployment Job Search and Work Requirements

Unemployment work search form

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When you are collecting unemployment under normal circumstances, you must be available for work and actively seeking employment. You must be ready, willing, available, and able to work, and you may be required to report on your job search activities.

Because the unemployment job search and work requirements vary by state, you should check your state’s website to verify your compliance, but there are some general guidelines.

Looking for Work While Collecting Unemployment

While the rules regarding looking for work vary from state to state, unemployed workers collecting benefits in traditional circumstances need to be searching for a job. Unemployed workers are often required to report on their job search to their state unemployment department. Also, they may be required to keep a job search log to provide to the unemployment office upon request.


Unemployment job search requirements vary based on regulations in the state from which you are collecting benefits, as well as on the type of benefits you are collecting. Check with your state unemployment office for requirements in your location.

Unemployment Available for Work Requirements

Depending on state regulations, workers who are unemployed must be available for suitable work and actively seeking suitable employment. At the minimum, this includes being ready to accept work immediately if a job is offered to you. You must also be willing to accept employment for all shifts and days that are normal for your occupation.

You must accept the wage most employers in your area pay for your occupation for someone with your qualifications and experience, and you must be willing to commute a reasonable distance to work. The travel to work requirement considered reasonable could be as much as an hour to an hour and a half each way.

The requirements vary based on how long you have been unemployed, and if you are collecting extended benefits. In some cases, you may be required to accept any work you are capable of performing, not just a similar job in the field you were laid off from.

Unemployment Work Search Requirements

While the rules and requirements vary by state, many states expect unemployed workers to register, keep a running log of their job search and report on it periodically.

This can vary from weekly submissions to monthly accounts.

In Washington state, for example, unemployed workers are required to keep a job search log for each week they claim unemployment benefits. There must be a combined total of three employer contacts or approved job search activities each week. The log must contain company information, how the contact was made (in-person, phone, online, email, fax), a contact name or confirmation of application, and the type of contact.

New York state, as another example, requires unemployed workers to apply to or contact several prospective employers each week. You must also keep a record of your work search that includes the employer name, address, and phone number, date of contact, a method of contact, position applied for, whether an application was accepted, and the result of the contact.

Reporting Requirements

For unemployment job search and reporting requirements in your state, check with your state unemployment office website. Whatever the state requirements, you should keep a personal account of your job search activities, to help you keep track of your applications and follow-up correspondence.

Unemployment Work Requirements for Union Workers

In many cases, you do not have to personally seek work if you belong to a union that does not allow you to seek work on your own in your occupation. However, you must be in good standing with the union and on the union referral list for work.

Make sure to notify your union if you lose your job, and let them know you are seeking a new position.

Tips for Collecting Unemployment

If you find yourself unemployed, remember to file as soon as possible for unemployment benefits, as holding off will cause a delay in receiving assistance.

Check your state’s website for the specific rules about benefits and requirements, and don’t hesitate to contact the office should you have any questions or need clarification about any of the procedures.

Your state department of labor is there to help you get financial assistance if you are unemployed, but also importantly, to help you find a new job and get back to work.

The information contained in this article is not legal advice and is not a substitute for such advice. State and federal laws change frequently, and the information in this article may not reflect your own state’s laws or the most recent changes to the law. 

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  1. U.S. Department of Labor. "What is Unemployment Insurance (UI)?" Accessed Sept. 3, 2021.

  2. Employment Security Department. "Job Search Requirements." Accessed Sept. 3, 2021.

  3. New York State Department of Labor. "Work Search Frequently Asked Questions." Accessed Sept. 3, 2021.

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