How to File an Unemployment Benefits Claim

By Minara El-Rahman on January 26, 2010 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

With a new slight jobless claims rise, you can expect that more Americans need to know how to file an unemployment benefits claim. BusinessWeek recently reported that jobless claims in the U.S. jumped to 11,000 in early January. This is a slight jump in claims after weeks of claims dropping. ABC News reports that 434,000 people filed first-time claims, up by only 1,000 from the week before.

The data also suggests that employers are not hiring. There are more Americans receiving extended unemployment benefits which indicates that they have been unemployed for longer periods of time. ABC News reports that over 5.4 million Americans were receiving extended unemployment benefits in the week of Dec. 19, 2009. While news outlets claim some optimism because the slight increase seems like an anomaly in an overall trend decrease in jobless claims, there are still people who will be joining the unemployed.

With this news, a question comes to mind:

How Do I Apply for Unemployment Benefits?

1) File a Claim

A person can file for unemployment insurance benefits by filing a claim with their local state unemployment office. Some states such as California and New York allow workers to apply for unemployment benefits on their websites. Here is California's website to file for unemployment benefitsNew York's website to file an unemployment benefits claim is here. One caveat: with the recent rise of unemployment claims, some websites have crashed and can no longer process claims of unemployment over the internet. We wrote about issues with electronic unemployment filing systems crashing in our Common Law blog.

You should file your claim as soon as possible because you will not be able to receive any benefits until your claim has been processed and your eligibility for the benefits has been verified.

2) Bring the Documents You Need

Before you file your claim, or even set foot in your state's unemployment office, make sure you know what you need in order to file a claim. Here is a sample list of things that you might need when you file your unemployment benefits claim:

  • Your Mailing Address
  • Your Social Security Card
  • Driver's License
  • Previous Pay Stubs
  • Name, Address, and telephone number of your previous employer
  • Previous Employer's Federal ID number
  • Start/End Date of Employment
  • Proof of termination or reason for unemployment

3) Reporting to the Unemployment Office

Once you file that initial claim, you may need to report to your state's unemployment office in order for the office to confirm that you are still eligible for benefits. Make sure that you do so! Otherwise, you could lose your benefits.

Remember, this is a tough time for a lot of Americans, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Jobs will eventually return, and when they do, you will be ready. Make sure to keep reading for tips to ensure that you can ride out the economy and bounce back. 

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