How To Calculate Unemployment

Empty pockets

A person is considered unemployed when he is actively looking for employment but is currently without a job. In today’s business climate, nothing is more worrisome than the ever rising rate of unemployment. Statistics from, an online job search website, have shown a steady rise in individuals looking for employment online.  The company boasts of 150 million resumes to-date.  Job search has become one of the top activities on the Internet.  Books on unemployment like How to Maximize Your Unemployment Benefits are popular, given the global recession.

If you lost your job through no fault of your own, find out how to collect unemployment benefits.  Applications are made through your local unemployment office.  There are different requirements that must be met before filing for unemployment benefits.

The unemployment officer will determine if you are qualified and compute your weekly benefits rate (WBR).  One qualification is that your previous employer should have paid unemployment insurance.  Check your state’s websites for other eligibility requirements including the formula and rates used to calculate unemployment claims.

It is important to know whether it is financially better to be unemployed (at the moment) rather than to stay in a low paying job.  You can calculate your WBR on your own.

Define your base period.
  This is used to determine if you can actually collect benefits from your state.  Follow these steps:

1.    Based on the date you were laid off, identify the last full quarter that you worked. The calendar year is divided into 4 quarters, namely:

  • First: January 1-March 31
  • Second: April 1-June30
  • Third: July 1-September 30
  • Fourth: October 1-December 31

If, for example, you were laid off on May 15, the last completed full quarter would be the first quarter (Jan 1 – Mar 31).

2.    Next, count back to the last five completed quarters.  This will give you: first, fourth, third, second, first.

3.    Next, count back to the last five completed quarters.  This will give you: first, fourth, third, second, first.

4.    Reverse the order of the completed quarters above. You now have: first, second, third, fourth, first. The base period will be the first four of the last five completed quarters.  Replace the quarters with their actual start and end dates.  The base period starts on the first date and ends on the very last date, January 1 – December 31.

Calculate your potential WBR, which is roughly 4% of the highest quarter wages:

  1. Identify the highest quarter.  This is the quarter within the base period where you received the highest pay.  Calculate your earnings for that quarter.  Your potential unemployment claims will be computed using this amount. For example, your weekly gross salary before you were let go was $500 and in the highest quarter of your base period, you earned $6,000.
  2. Multiply your highest earnings by 4% (approximate value that differs from state to state).  For example, if you live and work in Michigan, the calculation will be as follows:
    1. Highest quarter salary $6,000 x 4.1 % (Michigan) = $246 Add the benefits for dependents.  In Michigan, add $6 per dependent. For two dependents, the computation will be: $246 + $12 = $258 weekly benefit rate. So in this example, $258 is what you will receive on a weekly basis.

It is not difficult to compute your weekly unemployment benefits rate.  Just remember that there may be other factors that can affect the computation. Different states use different formulas to calculate unemployment benefits.  Visit your state’s unemployment website for more details.


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