File for Unemployment: How to Get Started

3 Simple Steps for Filing a Claim

When you become unemployed through a job lay-off you are typically qualified to receive weekly unemployment benefits. But you must apply to receive those benefits, it’s not going to happen by magic.

3 basic steps you can take to file for unemployment:

  • Locate information for contacting your state unemployment office
  • Gather together the information you need to file a claim
  • Call or apply online ASAP.

 **Tip: Most of the time you will be expected to file your own unemployment claim. But in some instances, when your lay-off is short-term or temporary, your employer may file initial unemployment claims for you through their human resources office. You must find this out from your employer. Ask: “Am I required to file for unemployment myself or is that something you or HR does?”

1. Contacting Your State Unemployment Office

Every state has its own procedures and requirements for unemployment benefits. You can locate your state’s unemployment office online or find it listed in the government pages of your telephone book. Avoid websites that catch your attention with messages like: “fast service,” “benefits filing services,” “membership claims filing,” and more language that promises quicker turnaround on unemployment claims and “fast money.” Use the resources you find on your state’s unemployment or labor department website. Get further tips on locating and contacting your state unemployment office.

2. Information You’ll Need to File a Claim

Gather the information you will typically need to file for unemployment benefits. Again, each state office differs slightly, but if you have the following basic information you are off to a good start:

  • Your social security number
  • Drivers license or legal identification
  • Your address and telephone number
  • Mother’s maiden name
  • Employment record for the last 2 years, including employers’ names, addresses and telephone numbers
  • Most recent employer’s federal employer identification number (EIN or FEIN)—ask your employer for this or find it on your W-2 tax form.
  • Income records for the last 2 years
  • Bank routing number (for direct deposit)

This may be more than you need for some state claims, but if you have all of this on hand and organized in one place—file in a folder, in a notebook—then you are way ahead of most people. If you were in a branch of the military have any official “separation” documents on hand, as well.

3. Apply for Unemployment

Most states offer you an online application for unemployment benefits or the option to file a claim over the phone.

  • Access online applications directly through your state government’s unemployment website.
  • Find the state telephone claims line on the state website or in the government pages of your telephone book and file over the phone.
  • File ASAP.
To find your state's website, use our comprehensive list of all of the state unemployment websites, click here:  State Unemployment Websites
For our state unemployment directory, which includes eligibility information and instructions on how to file for unemployment, click here:  State Unemployment Directory with Instructions


# anymous 2010-09-11 22:30
Is it illegal for an employeer to turn hours in to the union for a former employee so they can receive healthcare,pens ion and other union benefits and be on unemployment for almost a year at the same time?
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# jeffrey s 2010-11-21 10:37
is there a hands on book to teach me about filing unemployment with no hitches. i just cant figure it out
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# Jasper Berg 2011-01-14 18:33
Even if you are denied unemployment benefits, keep applying each and every week. In the state of Minnesota, unemployment benefits are retroactie if you are eventually found eligible.
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# Fercho 2011-05-24 11:00
My employeer fire me because I call the regional manager askhim some question how to open my own business after probation year with him. I dont understand what is the crimen to ask some question about it if you want tobe your own boss. He explain that was unloyalt action from me.
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# tina 2011-08-21 23:55
Can you draw unemployment if you quit because your hours were cut in half?
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# Vanessa 2011-08-23 11:46
I am currently working for a heaving equipment / aggregate source and I am running into morally challenging siturations. If I quit, will I still qualify for unemployment? also, I have only been here 3 months?
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# keith 2011-09-21 15:02
Can i collect unemployment if I quit a job to take a better job but then I am laid off from the second job? I offered to take my orginal job back back the company said no. I ahd taken the new job because the original company kept putting me on probation and then taking me off right before the time was up.
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# Patti 2011-10-28 09:55
When I am checking the status of my claim, it says "processing debit card"....what does this mean? Payment hasn't been made, but I do have a benefit amount.
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# terry 2011-12-19 21:29
How many weeks do I have to work to qualify for benefits
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# l mac 2011-12-26 18:22
I had a job 35 miles away, but my vehicle pmt and the gas for the vehicle cost so much I had to quit that job. Then started work for construction crew nearby, who had a few jobs lined up, but now they are finishing this job and the others have been put on hold. After a month and a half, I will be out of a job at the end of the year and no other prospects in my area. Am I eligible for benefits?
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# strong 2012-01-05 23:43
I have been a student and a full time employee for 2 years. I have been laid off and have just filed for unemployment. Will I be denied because I am a full time student? Will they consider the fact that I have been successfully balancing both work and school, not just during the past two years at my most recent job but for years previous?
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# Rayondh 2012-11-13 14:29
i'm retired and recive social security. I took a part time job as a securty guard at a hotel. i work about 6 mounth out of the year. Am i elligible for unemployent when they don't need me in the winter months
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# AKU 2013-05-16 07:18
I was employed for a company for 17 years in the state of NJ with a salary above $50,000 year. A new company bought us out and I got laid off within a year. I received a severance package in the range of $39,400. I opted to receive bi-weekly payments until it runs out. I was informed that I am eligiable for unemployment, however, in order to receive the maximum amount, should I wait to my severance pay is exhausted or should I apply immediately.
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# Connie 2013-07-15 23:18
One time I did a mail-in application where I included the separation notices and everything. I was approved quickly. Now they don't accept mail-in applications, only phone and on-line. Why wouldn't they want to accept a complete application with separation notices?
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# HS 2013-09-13 10:52
my unemployment has been reduced and I was told a letter was sent three weeks ago . I still haven't received it bt need the letter for welfare proof what do I do. I tried going online to get the information but the system always says error Plz help .
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# Juli Cianciullo 2017-06-19 06:39
What is message code MD03?
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# Amanda 2017-11-23 09:30
I just went to apply for NYS unemployment and when I entered my social it states: "The SSN you provided is already in our records. Double-check that you have entered the correct SSN. If it is correct, then you already have an account." What the heck does this mean!?!? I have NEVER in my life filed for unemployment first of all and even if there was already an unemployment account which there's no way that that is possible how do I find it? I would realistically like to get all this paperwork and previous employment info submitted so I can get the ball rolling on this unemployment. If anyone knows what's going on or can offer any suggestions or reasons this is happening I would be eternally grateful! SOS!!
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