Policy Basics: How Many Weeks of Unemployment Compensation Are Available?
Updated May 20, 2013
The unemployment insurance (UI) system helps many people who have lost their jobs by temporarily replacing part of their wages. (See “Introduction to Unemployment Insurance.”) The total number of weeks of benefits available in any particular state depends on the unemployment rate and unemployment insurance laws in the state where the person worked. The map below shows the maximum number of weeks of benefits currently available in each state.
Workers are eligible for up to 26 weeks of benefits from the regular state-funded unemployment compensation program in most states. Workers in any state who exhaust their regular UI benefits before they can find a job can currently receive up to 14 additional weeks of benefits through the temporary federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) program enacted in 2008. That number rises to 47 weeks in states with especially high unemployment rates. (See chart below)
Under certain conditions, workers who exhaust their regular UI and EUC benefits can receive additional weeks of benefits through the permanent federal-state Extended Benefits (EB) program. States are required to offer EB if their “insured unemployment rate” (IUR) exceeds a certain threshold. The IUR is based on the number of unemployed receiving UI, in contrast to the normal unemployment rate, which is based on the total number of unemployed, including those not receiving UI. States may also offer EB if they have adopted an optional trigger based on the state’s total unemployment rate (see the unemployment rate thresholds in the chart below) — and if the unemployment rate over the most recent three months is at least 10 percent higher than it was during the same three-month period in any of the previous three years. For most states, with the notable exception of Alaska, the IUR “trigger” is typically not attained until the normal unemployment rate is much higher than the thresholds shown below.
Federal legislation enacted in February 2012 reduced the maximum number of weeks of additional benefits available through EUC from 53 to the 47 now available. In addition, even states with high unemployment rates typically no longer meet the “three-year lookback” condition described above for offering EB. As a result the maximum number of weeks of UI available in high-unemployment states, which had been 99, has shrunk to 73 (93 if a state can offer EB). Currently, only Alaska, with its high IUR, offers EB.
The table below shows the average unemployment rate for each state over the past three months, as well as the maximum number of weeks of UI benefits currently available in each state through regular UI, EUC, and EB. Current law provides temporary federal benefits through the end of 2013.