Can You Be a Real Estate Agent & Still Get Unemployment?

by Chris Blank; Updated September 26, 2017

As of 2010, approximately 30 percent of the American workforce was independently employed, according to "Daily Finance," quoting figures from a report produced by Freelancer's Union. The majority of real estate brokers and sales agents are self-employed, approximately 59 percent as of May 2010, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. As self-employed workers, most real estate agents cannot collect unemployment insurance, or UI benefits, although some do.

Real Estate Agents and Brokers

Real estate agents and brokers are an essential element in the buying and selling of real property. If you are a real estate broker, you are licensed to conduct your own business, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. You may work independently or employ the services of one or more real estate agents, usually as contract workers, paying them a commission for each property they sell. As contract workers, most real estate agents do not collect regular salaries. If you work as a real estate agent on a contract basis, your pay depends on your performance.

Statutory Non-Employees versus Statutory Employees

The IRS specifically distinguishes real estate agents from insurance agents and full-time traveling or city salespeople, categorizing the latter two groups of workers as statutory employees. Under common law, statutory employees share the same status as independent contractors that real estate agents do. However, employers must withhold Social Security and Medicare payments from the paychecks of statutory employees. The Internal Revenue Service considers real estate agents who work on a contract basis to be independent contractors, and classifies them as statutory non-employees.

Independent Contractors and Unemployment Insurance

As a real estate agent, you should have enough savings set aside to cover six months' worth of expenses. The IRS considers real estate agents to be self-employed, and, therefore, not eligible to receive unemployment insurance compensation. In addition, if you are eligible to receive unemployment insurance compensation from another job, working as a real estate agent may severely reduce your benefit payments, according to Bankrate. You may lose your eligibility to receive unemployment insurance compensation altogether, due to being not "available" for a full-time position, according to Monster.

Self Employment Assistance

If you lose your job in "Delaware, Maine, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Oregon or Pennsylvania" and you want to become a real estate agent, you may qualify to receive a self-employment allowance for your training through the Self-Employment Assistance program operated in cooperation with the Department of Labor. Under the program, you collect the same amount in benefits as you would receive in unemployment insurance compensation. The allowance allows you the financial flexibility to pursue self-employment activities full-time.

About the Author

Chris Blank is an independent writer and research consultant with more than 20 years' experience. Blank specializes in social policy analysis, current events, popular culture and travel. His work has appeared both online and in print publications. He holds a Master of Arts in sociology and a Juris Doctor.