Can I Claim Unemployment If I Quit My Job?

The purpose of the Unemployment Insurance Program is to provide temporary income support to workers who have lost their jobs. Not every unemployed individual can qualify for payments. Under both federal and state laws, an applicant must meet inflexible eligibility criteria. Also, benefits can be discontinued if a recipient fails to adhere to the program's rules.


The program is intended to assist only those who have become unemployed through no fault of their own. This means that if you decide to quit your job, you will be unable to obtain UI benefits. Additionally, a person who is fired for cause, like misconduct, malfeasance or nonperformance, cannot qualify. Some states impose extra eligibility criteria.

Even after an eligible participant starts receiving payments, these benefits can be cut off if he voluntarily stops looking for work.


The Unemployment Insurance Program is a cost to both employers and many employees. It does not receive allocations from general government revenues; instead, employers pay a dedicated federal unemployment tax. In most states, additional unemployment insurance taxes are levied on employers, workers, or both. For these reasons, the program's funds are limited. Strict rules are necessary to maintain fairness and ensure that benefits are available to those most deserving of public assistance.


Under federal law, unemployment insurance benefits are always calculated as a percentage of your earnings over a period of 52 weeks. However, the duration of assistance can vary. In most cases, it is limited to 26 weeks. But you may be able to obtain extended payments during a time of unusually high unemployment, or due to other extenuating circumstances. Also, states have significant flexibility in how they administer the program for their own residents. For example, you must check whether your state imposes a cap on the total amount of benefits an individual can receive.

Time Frame

It can be time-consuming not only to file your initial claim for unemployment insurance benefits, but also to keep up with your ongoing obligations. For example, you must periodically update relevant personal information, like whether you have been offered employment or earned any wages since the previous report. In many cases, you will be required to participate in job readiness, skills training or other vocational programs provided by a state unemployment agency. Some states also impose a mandatory one-week waiting period before applicants can receive their first checks.


The best way to minimise delays is to file your claim as quickly as possible after losing your job. In most states, you can get started online, over the phone, by postal mail or in person at the nearest unemployment office. Double check that all information you provide is accurate, verifiable and up to date. To avoid disruptions, make sure you understand what is required of benefit recipients in your state. Ask unemployment officials to explain any rules that are unclear. If you believe that you have been wrongly denied assistance or otherwise treated unfairly, you have the right to appeal. Employers, too, can contest a determination of benefits due to a former employee.

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About the Author

Amy Handlin has been writing about government, business and politics since 1999. She is the author of "Be Your Own Lobbyist" and "Government Grief: How to Help Your Small Business Survive Mindless Regulation, Political Corruption and Red Tape." She is also a state legislator and associate professor. Handlin graduated from Harvard and holds advanced degrees in marketing from Columbia and New York University.

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