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Whether you are laid off because of company downsizing, lose your job because your company goes out of business or are forced to quit because of an employer’s repeated bounced checks, unemployment can be a challenging time, both financially and emotionally. Worrying about how to pay bills while hunting for another job can be exhausting and time-consuming. Learning facts about unemployment can help you make informed decisions while applying for benefits and maintaining a positive outlook.
In the U.S., the unemployment rate hit 9.9 percent in April 2010, as 15.3 million people were out of work, according to the Urban Institute. Of those individuals, 45.9 percent had been unemployed for over 26 weeks; this demographic is considered “long-term unemployed.” Unemployment rates for those unemployed for more than six months are higher than any since 1946. Between 2007 and 2009, unemployment among men increased by 119 percent, particularly because of job losses in manufacturing and construction. During that same time period, unemployment among women increased by 81 percent. Unemployment rates can differ by race; in April 2010 the unemployment rate for whites was 9 percent; for blacks, 16.5 percent; and for Hispanics, 12.5 percent.
According to UnemploymentHandbook.com, the requirements for applying for unemployment benefits vary by state, but gather together the following pieces of information: Social Security number, identification, address and phone number, mother’s maiden name, employment record for the last two years (including employers’ names, addresses and phone numbers) and your most recent employer’s federal employer identification number. Your employer may provide this, or locate that number on your W-2 tax form. Also bring your income records for the past two years and a bank routing number for direct deposit of unemployment benefits. Generally, you may apply for unemployment benefits by phone, in person or online. Most states require that you fulfill certain requirements, such as demonstrating an effort to find another job, to continue receiving benefits.
Generally, unemployment benefits are considered taxable income, according to the Internal Revenue Service. Under special circumstances, such as the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, unemployment benefit recipients don’t pay taxes on the first $2,400 received. Married couples may individually apply this exclusion to their taxes for a household Recovery Act exclusion total of $4,800 for that tax year. Prior to filing taxes, you’ll receive tax documents associated with unemployment benefits receipt in order to accurately file taxes.
Unemployment can be financially stressful but emotionally taxing, too. When you’re unemployed, maintain a regular schedule for job hunting, including resume preparation, interviews, meeting with career counselors and taking college courses to improve marketability. Maintain regular contact with friends and family members to avoid feeling lonely, especially if you’re accustomed to a sociable office environment. Shower, dress and eat just as you would on a typical work day; lounging around the house in your pajamas can cause depression. If you feel severely depressed, can’t sleep, have problems eating or experience anxiety, consult a doctor. Maintaining your health is a key component of rejoining the work force.