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How to Calculate Unemployment

The Federal-State Unemployment Insurance Program provides unemployment benefits to eligible workers who are unemployed through no fault of their own. Specific eligibility requirements and benefits may vary from state to state.


  • Step 1: Calculate your recent earnings Calculate your earnings over the most recent 52-week period. Benefits are based on a percentage of your earnings over this period. The maximum amount you are eligible for depends on your state.
  • TIP: To obtain information about unemployment benefits for a particular state, go to
  • Step 2: Check your eligibility for extended benefits Check whether you are eligible for extended unemployment benefits beyond the 26-week maximum mandated in most states.
  • TIP: The basic extended benefits program lets states experiencing high unemployment provide up to 13 additional weeks of benefits. Some states may also enact a voluntary program to pay additional weeks.
  • Step 3: Pay your taxes Don't forget to report unemployment benefits on your federal income tax return.
  • FACT: The unemployment rate in the U.S. reached 25 percent during the Great Depression.

You Will Need

  • Unemployment rules
  • Earnings over past year
  • Eligibility for extended benefits
  • Federal tax return
  • Internet access (optional)

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