How Does Partial Unemployment Work?

by Andra Picincu - Updated August 13, 2018

Partial unemployment is a viable option for those who still have a job, yet not earning more than they would on unemployment benefits. If you recently lost your job or you want to hire someone part-time, it's important to know how this program works. Its role is to help underemployed part-time workers make a decent living before they land a full-time job. While the laws vary by state, there are a couple of things to keep in mind before applying for partial unemployment benefits.

What Is Partial Unemployment?

A large share of the labor force consists of people who, for various reasons, are unable to work full-time. Their hours or pay may have been cut, or they simply cannot find a full-time job. Part-time workers often find it difficult to make ends meet because their earnings fall substantially below the minimum wage. This is where partial unemployment benefits come in.

The U.S. government offers unemployment (UI) benefits to part-time unemployed workers who meet certain criteria. You may be eligible to receive money under the following conditions:

  • You are available to work more.
  • You meet the minimum hours worked or minimum earnings required by your state.
  • You're working part-time through no fault of your own.

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For example, if your hours are cut to eight per week, you will not receive partial unemployment benefits in case you decide to stay home and take care of your children or go back to school. Doing any of these things means that you're not available to work more, so you won't qualify for benefits. The same applies to those who voluntarily choose to work part-time. You must be actively seeking a full-time job to qualify for partial benefits.

How to Calculate Partial Benefits

The maximum benefits payable on an unemployment claim vary among states. For example, part-time unemployed workers in Florida are eligible for benefits of up to $275 per week. Depending on where you live, you may use an online unemployment calculator to determine how much you can receive in benefits.

New Jersey, for instance, provides this service on its official website. You can access the NJ unemployment calculator online to estimate your potential maximum amount and potential weekly amount of UI benefits. Just choose your base year and provide your gross wages before deductions along with the number of weeks worked during the selected period. Click Continue to see the result.

Some states offer relatively low benefits compared to others. Florida, Arizona, Alabama, Tennessee and Louisiana all pay benefits of up to $300. Most times, part-time unemployed workers with reasonable earnings are ineligible for any benefits due to the strict UI rules. This often discourages them from taking interim jobs while claiming benefits.

How to Apply for Benefits

Most states allow unemployed workers to apply for UI benefits online. However, be prepared to deal with a lot of paperwork. If you live in California, you can file an employment insurance claim on the Employment Development Department's website. It's recommended to do it in the first week that you lose your job or have your hours cut. The more you wait, the longer it will take to start receiving benefits.

Access the UI Online or UI Online Mobile app to file a claim. It's necessary to provide your personal data along with information on all companies you worked for during the last 18 months, your gross earnings in the last week you worked, your last employer information and more. You may need to send some documents by mail. If your request is approved, your claims will begin on the Sunday of the week you sent your application.

The UI Online portal makes it easy to update your information, check an EDD open claim, reopen a claim and ask questions. It also provides videos and tutorials on how to report wages and earnings, view your payment information and more.

Most states feature similar apps where users can apply for UI benefits online. Florida residents, for instance, can access CONNECT, the state's online reemployment assistance system. All you need to do is to sign up for an account and file a partial form. If you live in New York, you can use your ID to register with the Department of Labor and apply for partial unemployment benefits.

About the Author

Andra Picincu is a digital marketing consultant with over nine years of experience. She works closely with small businesses and large organizations alike to help them grow and increase brand awareness.

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