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State unemployment insurance departments consider earnings to be reportable income for both figuring initial benefits and deducting part-time work and other earnings from weekly benefits. For figuring base pay, "earnings" is straightforward -- the full amount of compensation that your former employer paid you. For weekly deductions, "earnings" can be anything from cash made through odd jobs to a temp agency job to housework done in exchange for rent.
Employers pay into state unemployment insurance funds in the names of their employees. When an employee loses her job through no fault of her own, she can claim a weekly insurance payout from this fund while she looks for a job. The Department of Labor figures the weekly payment using the person's past year's earnings -- all wages, bonuses, vacation pay and other monetary benefits. Both the employee and the employer submit this information, and the department compares the two, resolves any discrepancies and then figures the weekly benefit. The higher an employee's total compensation, the more the department allocates for her weekly benefit, though all states have different maximum weekly benefits.
What Is Not Included
Only earnings from a job where an employer pays unemployment insurance are included in factoring weekly benefits. Self-employment outside of that job or part-time employment where the employer did not pay unemployment insurance should not be reported. Likewise, interest, dividends, other investment income, alimony and child support are not earnings and should not be reported.
If a person earns any money while on unemployment, she must report it on her weekly claims form to the Department of Labor. Officials managing unemployment claims factor the extra earnings into her benefits and deduct some. The formula for deducting extra earnings varies, but deducting 75 percent is not uncommon (for example, a person reporting $100 from a temp agency job would see her weekly benefit decrease by $75 for that week).
States often use a much more expansive definition of earnings when deducting money from weekly claims than when establishing a claim amount. Any cash or self-employment income should be reported, as well as any part-time work or temporary work. Furthermore, work done in trade -- for example, work done in exchange for rent, food or other goods and services -- should be reported as earnings.
Calla Hummel is a doctoral student studying contraband in international political economy. She supplements her student stipend by writing about personal finance and working as a consultant, as well as hoping that her investments will pan out.