Foto: Jefferson Rudy/Agência Senado

Provided that you’d worked during the previous year, if you are out of work for any reasons other than quitting your job for no reason or being fired for workplace misconduct, you are eligible to collect unemployment benefits while you lo

All of the 50 U.S. state governments, the city government of Washington D.C., as well as the territorial governments of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, offer unemployment insurance to people who have recently lost their jobs.  I do believe that the current system does mostly work very well, though there is one aspect of this system which I believe does need to be reworked in some states.

Briefly: provided that you’d worked during the previous year, if you are out of work for any reasons other than quitting your job for no reason or being fired for workplace misconduct, then you are eligible to collect unemployment insurance while you look for a new job.  

The period of time for which people are eligible to collect unemployment benefits can be from 180 days in some states up to 73 weeks in other states.

Unemployment insurance began in the U.S. in 1932; it was loosely based on the same concept as unemployment insurance which began in the U.K. in 1920.  The basic concept behind unemployment insurance is that when someone loses their job through no fault of their own, they aren’t always necessarily always going to be able to find a new job immediately.  The process of finding a new job sometimes takes a few months, or possibly longer, and people do in fact need money to pay their bills as well as to cover the costs of transportation while they search for their next jobs.

Unemployment insurance is funded largely by taxes which are withheld from peoples’ salaries from throughout each state.  In. the U.S, unemployment insurance is administered by each state’s Department of Labor (or comparable agency), and unemployment insurance is regulated by three bodies- unemployment insurance is regulated by each state’s legislature, by the states governments’ Department Of Labor as well as by the Federal Department Of Labor.

People who collect unemployment benefits need to provide documentation to their state’s departments of labor which verify that they’re actively seeking employment, and then they’re eligible to collect benefits.  The benefits that people collect are based on a percentage of the salaries that they’d earned during the previous year, up to a cap which is established by each state government. People usually have the option to be paid either via direct deposit or with prepaid debit cards.  

The legislators within state governments do in fact also fully comprehend that while people are searching for their next jobs, they may be working part-time or temporary jobs.  People who are working part-time or temporary jobs are likely to still need to collect their benefits because the amount of money that they’re earning from the jobs that they’re working on a part-time or temporary basis won’t always be enough to pay their living expenses.

If people are working part-time or temporary jobs, they receive a partial amount of the unemployment benefits that they’d be collecting if they weren’t working at all.  In some states, the amount that is deducted from someone’s unemployment benefits is based on the number of hours per week that they work, while in other states, the amount that is subtracted from their unemployment benefits is based on the number of days that they work each week.

In the states in which the amount that is subtracted from the unemployment benefits that people are eligible to collect is based on the number of days that someone works, rather than the number of hours that someone has worked, if someone works at all during a workday, that day is considered to be a day that they worked, and therefore, they will have a designated sum of money subtracted from their unemployment benefits.  If someone works for 1¾ hours, or if someone works for 11 hours on a given day, the day is still counted as a single day.  

You’ve likely noticed something in the reasoning behind the process of the calculations here by now.  Many employers pay hourly wages to their employees- therefore, someone is quite obviously going to earn more money if they work longer shifts.

In the states in which the amount that is subtracted from the unemployment benefits that people are eligible to collect is based on the number of days that someone works, people know the precise amount of money that they will collect per each day that they don’t work at all.  If someone is offered a temporary or a part-time job in which they’ll be paid more than the amount that they’ll receive for that day from their unemployment benefits, they’ll obviously have a lot of incentive to work the shifts that they’re being offered.

However, if an employer is offering a short shift to someone, and the potential employee knows that the amount of money that they’ll earn from working a shift which only lasts for a few hours is less than the amount that they’d potentially receive from their unemployment benefits, then people may actually have the incentive to turn down opportunities to work part-time or temporary shifts or jobs because they’ll actually be receiving more money from their unemployment benefits than they’d receive for working short shifts.   

It’s not at all uncommon for some companies to offer part-time or temporary positions in which people only work a limited number of hours per day, and these jobs usually pay hourly wages.  If someone knows that they’re in a position in which the amount of money that they’ll receive from their weekly or bi-weekly unemployment insurance exceeds the amount that the state department of labor would subtract from their benefits for working a short shift, then we actually have a system in some states in which people stand to be paid more for not working at all than they would be paid for working a short shift.

Perhaps it’s time for the state assemblies in the states in which unemployment benefits are calculated based on the number of days that someone works rather than the number of hours that someone works to re-evaluate precisely how they want to continue to calculate unemployment compensation.  

Scott Benowitz

Scott Benowitz is a staff writer for Afterimage Review. He holds an MSc in Comparative Politics from The London School of Economics & Political Science and a B.A. in International Studies from Reed...