How Does Partial Unemployment Work?

by Michaele Curtis; Updated September 26, 2017

Partial unemployment is a little different than total unemployment, which is the traditional way unemployment benefits are viewed. Partial unemployment benefits allow those who are still working yet not earning more than they would on unemployment benefits to participate in the program, too. Claimants must meet all of the normal eligibility requirements in addition to some specific to partial unemployment. The state distributes partial payments to claimants based on the amount of earnings they report for each week of unemployment.


The purpose of partial unemployment benefits is to allow those who experience a loss of work to participate in the state’s unemployment insurance program. Traditionally, unemployment benefits are only for those who have no income at all. However, if your state recognizes partial unemployment, it offers temporary relief to those who are making less than their unemployment weekly benefit amounts. This usually applies to those whose hours have been reduced or who have lost a full-time job and could only find part-time work to replace it.


Partial unemployment requirements are the same as total unemployment requirements. Your partial unemployment must be through no fault of your own. You must be ready, willing and able to work full time. You also must meet any previous wages threshold set by your state laws. In addition to the normal requirements, you must work less than full time and earn less than your eligible weekly unemployment benefits. You also must accept any additional hours offered by your employer whenever possible.


All unemployment claimants have a responsibility to report their earned income to the state during the weekly claims certification process. Failure to report your wages accurately can result in denial of wages or unemployment compensation fraud in serious cases. Depending on your state, you call into the telephone claims line or access the website claims site weekly or biweekly to answer questions about your unemployment eligibility. When you come to the question about the money you earned in the previous weeks, input the gross amount earned even if you haven’t received payment yet.


Once the state reviews the earnings income you reported, it calculates your partial unemployment payment. Each state has an earned income allowance or partial benefit credit. This is the amount you can earn per week without affecting your benefit payments. In some states, it’s a fixed flat amount, and in some states it’s a percentage of your weekly benefit amount. The state subtracts the allowance from your earnings and then subtracts the result from your eligible weekly amount. Then it distributes the rest as your partial unemployment payment.

About the Author

Michaele Curtis began writing professionally in 2001. As a freelance writer for the Centers for Disease Control, Nationwide Insurance and AT&T Interactive, her work has appeared in "Insurance Today," "Mobiles and PDAs" and "Curve Magazine." Curtis holds a Bachelor of Arts in communication from Louisiana State University.

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