How to Apply for Federal Unemployment Benefits?

Last Updated on April 21, 2023

How to Apply for Federal Unemployment Benefits

Have you lost your job? You may qualify for Unemployment Insurance (UI) Benefits, which is temporary income to support you while you look for a new one. Here’s a detailed guide on how to apply for federal unemployment benefits.


Unemployment Insurance is a joint state-federal program that provides cash benefits to eligible workers. Each state administers a separate UI program, but all states follow the same guidelines established by federal law.

Unemployment insurance payments (benefits) are intended to provide temporary financial assistance to unemployed workers who are unemployed through no fault of their own. Each state sets its own additional requirements for eligibility, benefit amounts, and length of time benefits can be paid.

Generally, benefits are based on a percentage of your earnings over a recent 52-week period, and each state sets a maximum amount. Benefits are subject to federal and most state income taxes and must be reported on your income tax return. You may choose to have the tax withheld from your payment.


Each state sets its own guidelines for eligibility for UI benefits, but you usually qualify if you:

  • Are unemployed through no fault of your own. In most states, this means you have to have separated from your last job due to a lack of available work.
  •  Meet work and wage requirements. You must meet your state’s requirements for wages earned or time worked during an established period of time referred to as a “base period.” (In most states, this is usually the first four out of the last five completed calendar quarters prior to the time that your claim is filed.)


To apply for Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits, you need to provide personal information including your Social Security number, birth date, home address, email address (optional), and phone number.

You also need information about your employment history from the last 15 months, including:

  • Names of all employers, plus addresses and phone numbers
  • Reasons for leaving those jobs
  • Work start and end dates
  • Recall date (if you were laid off but have a set date to return to work)

You may need additional information in certain situations:

  • If you are not a U.S. citizen — your Alien Registration number
  • If you have children — their birth dates and Social Security numbers
  • If you’re in a union — your union name and local number
  • If you were in the military — your DD-214 Member 4 form. If you don’t have it, you can request your DD-214 online.
  • If you worked for the federal government — your SF8 form (optional)

To receive payments by direct deposit, you’ll also need your bank name, account number, and routing number. Otherwise, the Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) will send you a debit card.

If you’re a non-U.S. citizen applying for UI benefits, DUA must verify that you are legally authorized to work in the United States.


To receive unemployment insurance benefits, you need to file a claim with the unemployment insurance program in the state where you worked. Depending on the state, claims may be filed in person, by telephone, or online.

  • You should contact your state’s unemployment insurance program as soon as possible after becoming unemployed.
  • Generally, you should file your claim with the state where you worked. If you worked in a state other than the one where you now live or if you worked in multiple states, the state unemployment insurance agency where you now live can provide information about how to file your claim with other states.
  • When you file a claim, you will be asked for certain information, such as addresses and dates of your former employment. To make sure your claim is not delayed, be sure to give complete and correct information.
  • It generally takes two to three weeks after you file your claim to receive your first benefit check.


StateAgencyPhone Number(s)Website
AlabamaAlabama Department of Labor866-234-5382
AlaskaAlaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development907-269-4700
ArizonaArizona Department of Economic Security1-877-600-2722
ArkansasArkansas Department of Workforce Services501-682-2121
CaliforniaCalifornia Employment Development Department1-800-300-5616
ColoradoColorado Department of Labor and Employment303-318-9000
ConnecticutConnecticut Department of Labor1-800-956-3294
DelawareDelaware Department of LaborNew Castle County: 302-761-6576
Other Areas: 1-800-794-3032
District of ColumbiaDistrict of Columbia Department of Employment Services202-724-7000
FloridaFlorida Department of Economic Opportunity1-800-204-2418
GeorgiaGeorgia Department of Labor1-877-709-8185
HawaiiHawaii Department of Labor and Industrial RelationsOahu: 808-586-8970
Hilo: 808-974-4086
Kona: 808-322-4822
Maui: 808-984-8400
Kauai: 808-274-3043
IdahoIdaho Department of Labor208-332-8942
IllinoisIllinois Department of Employment Security1-800-244-5631
IndianaIndiana Department of Workforce Development1-800-891-6499
IowaIowa Workforce Development1-866-239-0843
KansasKansas Department of Labor1-800-292-6333
KentuckyKentucky Career Center Office of Unemployment Insurance502-564-2900
LouisianaLouisiana Workforce Commission1-866-783-5567
MaineMaine Department of Labor1-800-593-7660
MarylandMaryland Department of Labor410-949-0022
MassachusettsMassachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance617-626-6338
MichiganMichigan Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity1-866-500-0017,5863,7-336-78421_97241—,00.html
MinnesotaMinnesota Department of Employment and Economic DevelopmentTwin Cities Area: 651-296-3644
Greater Minnesota: 1-877-898-9090
MississippiMississippi Department of Employment Security601-493-9427
MissouriMissouri Department of Labor and Industrial Relations1-800-320-2519
MontanaMontana Department of Labor and Industry406-444-2545
NebraskaNebraska Department of Labor1-855-995-8863
NevadaNevada Department of Employment Training and RehabilitationNorthern Nevada: 775-684-0350
Southern Nevada: 702-486-0350
Rural Areas and Out of State Callers: 1-888-890-8211
New HampshireNew Hampshire Department of Employment Security1-800-852-3400
New JerseyNew Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce DevelopmentNorth New Jersey: 201-601-4100
Central New Jersey: 732-761-2020
South New Jersey: 856-507-2340
Out-of-state claims: 1-888-795-6672
New MexicoNew Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions1-877-664-6984
New YorkNew York Department of Labor1-888-209-8124
North CarolinaNorth Carolina Department of Commerce1-888-737-0259
North DakotaNorth Dakota Job Service701-328-4995
OhioOhio Department of Job and Family Services1-877-644-6562
OklahomaOklahoma Employment Security Commission405-525-1500
OregonOregon Employment Department1-877-345-3484
PennsylvaniaPennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry1-888-313-7284
Puerto RicoPuerto Rico Department of Labor and Human Resources787-625-7900
Rhode IslandRhode Island Department of Labor and Training401-243-9100
South CarolinaSouth Carolina Department of Employment and Workforce1-866-831-1724
South DakotaSouth Dakota Department of Labor and Regulation605-626-3179
TennesseeTennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development1-877-813-0950
TexasTexas Workforce Commission1-800-939-6631
U.S. Virgin IslandsU.S. Virgin Islands Department of Labor340-773-1994
UtahUtah Department of Workforce ServicesSalt Lake and South Davis Counties: 801-526-4400
Weber and North Davis Counties: 801-612-0877
Utah County: 801-375-4067
Other Counties and Out of State: 1-888-848-0688
VermontVermont Department of Labor1-888-807-7072
VirginiaVirginia Employment Commission1-866-832-2363
WashingtonWashington Employment Security Department1-800-318-6022
WisconsinWisconsin Department of Workforce Development1-844-910-3661
West VirginiaWorkforce West Virginia1-800-379-1032
WyomingWyoming Department of Workforce Services307-473-3789

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Each state UI Program makes its own decisions about workers’ eligibility for benefits.

There are many reasons for denying benefit payments; some of the most common are:  

  • Voluntarily leaving work without good cause. Benefit payments can be paid if you quit under certain} circumstances depending on your state’s laws.
  • Being discharged for misconduct connected with work. Misconduct is an intentional or controllable act} or failure to take action, which shows a deliberate disregard of the employer’s interests.
  • Not being able or available for work. You must be able, ready and willing to accept a suitable job.}  
  • Not actively seeking work.
  • Refusing an offer of suitable work.
  • Knowingly making false statements to obtain benefit payments.

If you are disqualified or denied benefits, you have the right to file an appeal. Your employer may also appeal a determination if he/she does not agree with the state’s determination regarding your eligibility. You must file your appeal within an established time frame.


In general, benefits are based on a percentage of an individual’s earnings over a recent 52-week period -up to a State maximum amount.

  • Benefits can be paid for a maximum of 26 weeks in most states.
  • Additional weeks of benefits called Extended Benefits may be available during times of high unemployment (Some States also provide additional benefits for specific purposes).
  • Benefits are subject to Federal income taxes and must be reported on the individual’s Federal income tax return. Or the individual may elect to have the tax withheld by the State Unemployment Insurance agency.

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