Business Category Business: career motivation and tips to move ahead

Can I work part time & still receive unemployment benefits?

When you are unemployed, any offer of work, even part-time work, can be tempting. Depending on the laws in your state, you may be able to work part time while still receiving unemployment benefits. However, you should be aware that part-time work can negatively affect the amount you get in unemployment benefits, particularly if your employer fires you from, or you quit, the part-time job.

Unemployment Benefits

Unemployment benefits provide you with income to meet your basic needs while you are unemployed through no fault of your own. After your state's unemployment office approves you for benefits, you'll be required to contact your unemployment office every week or two, via telephone, Internet, in-person or mail, to certify that you are still eligible for benefits. After you certify, you'll receive your benefit payment. The amount of your unemployment check, as well as the length of time that you can receive benefits, varies according to your state's laws and how much you earned through work before losing your job.

Work Restrictions

Restrictions on how much you can earn through work while receiving unemployment benefits vary between states. Many states permit you to earn up to a certain percentage of your weekly unemployment benefit without any reduction in benefits. Once you exceed that percentage, your benefit is reduced in proportion to your earnings.

Reporting Earnings

If you earn any income while on unemployment, you'll have to report it. This is usually done via your state's unemployment certification system. If your unemployment office has any questions, or needs to recalculate your benefit, it will notify you. Not reporting earnings while on unemployment is considered unemployment fraud, and states usually enforce stiff penalties, such as fines and possibly imprisonment. You'll also have to pay back any benefits that you were not entitled to receive.

School and Training

Going to school or receiving some kind of training, even part time, can jeopardise your unemployment benefits, though you may be able to get approved to attend job-related training. If you are considering returning to school, contact your local unemployment office to ensure that you will still be eligible for benefits after you start classes.


Taking a part-time or temporary job in which you make considerably less money than you did in your previous work can, in some cases, permanently reduce the size of your unemployment benefit. This is because your previous earnings determine your unemployment benefit amount. If your state unemployment agency recalculates your benefit amount, it will use the earnings from your part-time job in its calculation.