How to Calculate Unemployment Pay

How to Calculate Unemployment Pay
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Perspective unemployment applicants can determine their unemployment weekly benefit prior to receiving the first unemployment check, or even completing an unemployment application. Determining your unemployment payment prior to submitting your unemployment application can help you decide between accepting a lower-paying position than the previous job, or accepting unemployment to cover your bills and expenses. Understand that different states use different formulas to calculate weekly unemployment benefit amounts, but you can use a few calculations to determine a projected figure for your benefit amount.

Establish your base period by finding the dates for the first four of the last five full calendar quarters that fall before the week you intend to file your unemployment claim. There are four calendar periods quarters of the year which are January 1 through March 31 for the first quarter of the year, April 1 to June 30 for the second quarter of the calendar year, July 1 through September 30 for the third quarter of the year and October 1 to December 31 for the fourth and final quarter of the calendar year. For example, if you plan to file your claim on June 15, 2010, use January 1, 2009 through December 31, 2009 as your base period.

Collect income statements or pay stubs from all of your employers for your base period. Add up the gross income you earned from all employers during the base period according to each quarter.

Using a calculator, enter the amount you earned for the quarter with the highest gross income out of all four quarters. Multiply this amount by four percent to determine your weekly unemployment pay. If your calculated pay is below your state’s minimum weekly benefit rate, you will receive the minimum unemployment pay. In some states, if your calculated weekly benefit surpasses your state’s maximum weekly benefit, you will only receive the maximum unemployment pay, but check with your local unemployment office or your state's workforce department about their laws regarding minimum and maximum benefits for certainty.

Determine the maximum amount of unemployment pay you can receive while on unemployment by multiplying your weekly benefit amount by 26 or 40 percent. The maximum amount you can receive will be the lesser of the two calculations.


  • Contact your state’s workforce commission or department or your local unemployment office and ask if your state has an online unemployment benefits calculator. Using your state’s online benefits calculator, if one is available, will provide an estimate for your weekly unemployment pay according to the formula your state uses to determine these figures.