What Are Unemployment Job Search and Work Requirements?

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Do you have to look for a job when you're unemployed? Will the unemployment office track what you're doing to try to find work? 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.

Review unemployment work search and availability guidelines and requirements for tracking your job search activities.

Key Takeaways

  • Unemployed workers are expected to be seeking employment and may need to report their work activities when they file weekly unemployment claims.
  • Many states expect unemployed workers to keep a running log of their job search and report on it.
  • Unemployed workers may need to complete a required amount of employer contacts or job search activities each week.
  • Requirements vary by state, so check with your state unemployment department for details.

Unemployment Work Search & Reporting Guidelines

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.

Available for Work Requirements

Depending on state regulations, workers who are unemployed must be available for suitable work and actively seeking 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.

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.

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.

Check With Your State Unemployment Department

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.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What happens if someone doesn't complete the unemployment work search requirements?

If weekly job search activities aren't completed, the claimant may lose eligibility for benefits. Work search records may be verified, and if false information is provided, it can be considered fraud.

Can you decline a job offer while collecting unemployment benefits?

In some circumstances, you can turn down a job that isn't considered suitable employment. In general, suitable work means a job with wages and work duties comparable to your recent employment, education level, and previous work experience.

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  1. U.S. Department of Labor. "What is Unemployment Insurance (UI)?"

  2. NOLO. "Collecting Unemployment: Are You Able, Available, and Actively Seeking Work?"

  3. Employment Security Department. "Job Search Requirements."

  4. New York State Department of Labor. "Work Search Frequently Asked Questions."

  5. New York State Department of Labor. "Work Search Frequently Asked Questions."

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