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Can I Get Unemployment Money If My Wages Have Decreased?

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When your wages decrease through no fault of your own, you may qualify for unemployment benefits from your state through the loss of work eligibility. This applies whether your employer significantly decreased your wages or you lost a job and had to take a job that paid significantly less. Based on how much your normal unemployment payments might be and how much money you earn each week, the state determines a partial unemployment payment.

Loss of Work

Many states offer unemployment benefits for loss of work claims as well as total unemployment claims. These situations, sometimes called being partial unemployed, arise when your employer cuts your pay or hours significantly. It can also apply if you lost your job and could only find employment at a significant pay cut. When you file a loss of work claim, your state's labor department looks at your salary history to determine what you'd qualify for in unemployment benefits and then adjusts it based on the income you're currently earning.

Applying for Benefits

Even if you're not sure if you'd qualify for a loss of work claim, apply for unemployment benefits. On the application, answer the questions about your former income and your current income, including the reasons your wages decreased. The state's labor department will contact your former employer to verify the details of your claim, including the difference in wages. Once they've determined your eligibility you'll receive a notice of determination by mail.

Reporting Your Income

When you're collecting loss of work unemployment compensation, you must report the amount of wages you earn each week to the state labor department. The weekly claim process will ask you how many hours you worked for the week and how much money you earned. Remember to report the wages you earned for the week, not necessarily the money you received that week.

Partial Unemployment Compensation

Based on the wages you earned for the week, your state's labor office calculates how much money you can collect for that week in unemployment. The partial unemployment formula can vary depending on the state in which you live, so check with the state's labor office for the specific details. However, most states allow you earn up to a set threshold before decreasing your benefits. Each dollar after that threshold is then subtracted from your normal payment and you receive what's left.


Michaele Curtis began writing professionally in 2001. As a freelance writer for the Centers for Disease Control, Nationwide Insurance and AT&T Interactive, her work has appeared in "Insurance Today," "Mobiles and PDAs" and "Curve Magazine." Curtis holds a Bachelor of Arts in communication from Louisiana State University.

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