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How are Weekly Unemployment Benefits Determined?

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  • Written By: I. Ong
  • Edited By: C. Wilborn
  • Last Modified Date: 18 November 2016
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Unemployment benefits refer to a sum of money given by the government or any authorized agency to individuals registered as unemployed, usually on a weekly basis. Weekly unemployment benefits are calculated based on the individual's earnings in the preceding months, as well as the number of dependents he is supporting. The actual formula for computation may vary based on location.

The base period usually refers to the first four quarters from the five quarters preceding the week in which the individual intends to apply for unemployment benefits. The income received is listed for each of the four quarters in the base period. The two highest wages of the four quarters, added together, will be the starting point for computation. Note that if only two quarters from the base period had earnings, just one highest-earning quarter's wage will be considered in most cases.

The next step in calculating the weekly unemployment benefits is to divide the total of the individual's two highest-earning quarters by 26. This is the number of weeks in two quarters, and will determine his average earnings per week. When dealing with just one quarter's earnings, the figure must be divided by 13 instead, which is the number of weeks in one quarter.

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Once the average weekly earnings have been calculated, the figure should be divided in half and rounded down to the nearest whole unit of currency, such as a dollar. A small percentage is usually added to the amount for each dependent being supported by the individual. This will be the sum of his weekly unemployment benefits.

The exact figures for factoring dependents into the formula varies, so anyone interested should search for his specific government or agency website and check the details. He may also consult an unemployment attorney, who can then provide answers for any queries and concerns he might have.

Some other factors must be considered when claiming weekly unemployment benefits. There is a maximum number of weeks in a year for which an individual may claim unemployment benefits. For the United States, the limit is 26 weeks in a year, in most circumstances, and the weeks may or may not be consecutive. Note that governments and agencies have specific budgets allotted per individual and will rarely go below their minimum or above their maximum amount.

There are certain requirements that should be met before an individual is eligible for claiming weekly unemployment benefits. He must be registered with the relevant government department or agency, be unemployed at the time he applies for benefits, and be physically and mentally capable of working. He should be continuing his job search, attending required meetings with the department or agency, and be regularly claiming his weekly benefits.

There are monetary requirements that the individual must meet as well. Wages in the last six months of his base period must be equal to or more than eight times what his weekly unemployment benefit rate will be in most cases. He must also have earned a minimum sum during his base period, the required minimum of which will vary based on location. Only if an individual meets the above criteria will he be eligible for applying for unemployment benefits.

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