Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What is Unemployment Insurance?
    • Unemployment Insurance is a federal-state program that provides temporary financial assistance (“unemployment benefits”) to eligible workers who are unemployed through no fault of their own (as determined under State law), and meet other eligibility requirements established by State law. In NC the unemployment insurance program is administered by the Division of Employment Security within the NC Department of Commerce.
  2. How many people are unemployed in North Carolina?
    • There are over 417,000 unemployed workers in NC as of July 2013. That is an unemployment rate of 8.9%, compared to the national average of 7.4%.
  3. Who is eligible for unemployment benefits?
    • The main requirements for an unemployed worker to receive unemployment benefits are:

      • You are not an undocumented immigrant;
      • You lost your job through no fault of your own;
      • You are currently unemployed or partially employed;
      • You are able to work and are looking for work; and
      • You have worked and earned enough wages to qualify for benefits.
  4. What counts as losing your job through no fault of your own?
    • If you were laid off
      • You will usually qualify for unemployment benefits if your job ended because of things that had nothing to do with you personally, like your employer went out of business; you were laid off because of lack of work; or your job was eliminated.
    • If you were fired
      • You may still be eligible for unemployment benefits even if you were fired or terminated. That will depend on whether you were fired for misconduct, which means you intentionally ignored your employer’s rules or interests.
    • If you quit
      • Quitting your job will usually disqualify you from receiving unemployment benefits. However, you may be eligible if you can show that you quit for good cause “attributable to your employer,” or for other good cause associated with your health or family emergencies for example.
  5. How much assistance can an unemployed worker in NC receive in unemployment benefits?
    • The “weekly benefit amount (wba)” is the dollar amount you can receive each week in unemployment benefits. The “wba” is calculated based on your earnings before you were unemployed. As of June 30,2013, the maximum weekly benefit amount is $350.
  6. How long can an unemployed worker receive unemployment benefits?
    • If you applied for benefits after June, 30, 2013, the maximum number of weeks of benefits you can receive is 20 weeks, and minimum is 5. The exact number of weeks of benefits you can receive will depend on the state unemployment rate.
  7. How is the unemployment insurance program funded?
    • All benefits and administrative costs of the unemployment insurance program are paid by employers through State Unemployment Tax Act (SUTA) and the Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA) payments.
  8. Is there any other purpose for unemployment insurance other than helping unemployed workers?
    • Yes. The purpose of the unemployment insurance system, as President Franklin D. Roosevelt noted upon signing the legislation into law, is both to alleviate hardships for the unemployed and to counter recessions. The unemployment insurance system acts as an “automatic stabilizer” for the economy, pumping money into the economy when unemployment is high by paying benefits that replace lost wages to those involuntarily unemployed while they search for work. This boosts economic growth just when the economy needs it most.
  9. What is the federal extended unemployment insurance program?
    • Beginning in July 2008, Congress and President Bush responded to the recession by enacting the temporary program called Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC). As a result of the steady rise in unemployment, Congress has reauthorized EUC 10 times, often for limited stretches of time. Most recently, the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012, enacted in February, extended the expiration date of the EUC program to January 2, 2013.
  10. What happens if the federal Extended Unemployment Compensation program expires on February 29th, 2012?
    • If Congress does not reauthorize the federal unemployment insurance program, 2 million workers nationally receiving federal unemployment benefits will be cut off after payment for the week ending December 29th. As these families become unable to pay bills, local economies will suffer. Abruptly terminating benefits will cause substantial human suffering and throw another obstacle in the path of economic growth for our state and its communities. Congress has never cut back on federally-funded unemployment insurance when joblessness was anywhere near this high for this long.