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What are the Benefits of Unemployment Insurance?

Regular benefits last for 26 weeks in most states, though in 2019, ten states had reduced their maximum potential duration below 26 weeks. The average weekly benefit was about $369, which replaces, on average, approximately 45% of jobless workers’ previous wages.

In addition to the first period of regular benefits, extended benefits may be available during times of high unemployment. This part of the program, which is geared to help workers who face unusual challenges finding work during economic downturns, can provide an additional 13 weeks of benefits after an individual has exhausted his or her maximum regular benefit period of 26 weeks. States may also elect to extend benefits by an additional 13 weeks in periods of deeper economic downturns.

During the recent recession, Congress enacted an Emergency Unemployment Compensation program (EUC), which potentially provided some claimants the ability to earn a maximum of up to 99 weeks of unemployment insurance benefits.

Example: John Jones has been laid off from his factory job. He has used his regular 26 weeks of benefits. Because he is in a state with a high level of unemployment, however, he qualifies for an additional 13 weeks, bringing his total benefit period to 39 weeks. In addition, Congress has approved a temporary extension of unemployment compensation for any worker who used all benefits and is still searching for a job, which provides another 13 weeks. If Jones is still jobless, he can use these 13 weeks of benefits, giving him a total of 52 weeks of unemployment insurance payments.