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How Long Do You Have to File Unemployment?

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The Basics

Unemployment compensation is a term used to describe a government-sponsored program that pays weekly salaries to able-bodied workers who are out of work. This compensation helps keep these workers financially afloat while they try to find a job. The amount of money an individual is paid per week is referred to as his base rate and is calculated based on what he earned at his previous job. The maximum amount of money a person can be paid in a week is $519.

Waiting Too Long

There is no set date whereby it is too late to file for unemployment – it depends on how much you made and how long you've waited, as well as what state you live in. And though you do not have to file for unemployment compensation immediately after being let go from a job, it can only hurt if you wait. As your wages from your previous employer over the previous 15 months are taken into account, waiting too long could result in being paid less per week or not qualifying for any benefits. The exact computations and rules vary by state, so consult your own government website to learn the particulars.

Preemptive Claims

Conversely, you cannot file for unemployment compensation before you are actually out of work. Even if you are made aware by your employer ahead of time that you will be laid off in the future, you cannot preemptively file an unemployment claim. Only unemployment claims made while the filer is "unemployed or partially unemployed" will be considered valid. Filing a preemptive claim that avoids detection until after weekly payouts have started could result in them being suspended for four weeks.


Stephen Lilley is a freelance writer who hopes to one day make a career writing for film and television. His articles have appeared on a variety of websites. Lilley holds a Bachelor of Arts in film and video production from the University of Toledo in Ohio.

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