How Unemployment Is Determined in California

Updated on June 10, 2020
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Perry has been a technical writer for over 10 years for biotech and I.T. firms. He loves to write.

Learn more about filing for unemployment in California, such as when you should file and how much you might receive.
Learn more about filing for unemployment in California, such as when you should file and how much you might receive. | Source

Filing for unemployment is a very good safety net most Americans can use should they be unemployed due to no fault of their own. While the amounts that are awarded are different from state to state, in most cases, the determination remains similar. In California, key factors in determining this are:

  • Did you quit?
  • Were you fired?
  • Did the job just end at no fault of yourself (say, a contract for a few months)?

If any one of them occurred, the agent will call you and vet out the circumstances and verify it. The first two may impact your ability to get unemployment while the last one will not.

Use the above to determine how your claim will be determined.
Use the above to determine how your claim will be determined.

When Is the Best Time to Apply?

Assuming you can get unemployment, before you actually apply online, determine the amount and when is the best time you should apply. To do this, knowing how it is computed is a must. You can only file for unemployed once every year. You can stop and restart it if the reason is just. If you work most of a year, you might be able to collect two years in a row, depending on when you file.

How Many Months Per Quarter Did You Work, and How Much Did You Earn?

If you want to make the most amount allowed per month, you need to earn at least $21 per hour. Assuming you do earn more than that, at minimum, you need to work at least one month in a quarter, and it is better if you worked all three months in a quarter. You need to know that even if you worked in all months within all four quarters of the previous year before filing, only the quarter with the highest gross pay is used to determined your unemployment. In California, if it is $11,500 or more, you will get the maximum.

Example: Filing in January

As an example, if you apply in January 2017, your claim is based upon your earnings between the end of the second quarter of 2016 back to the start of the third quarter of 2015. The claim filed in January 2017 means once the claim is exhausted of funds, usually by the end of six months, you cannot file another claim until January 2018. This may or may not help you decide when the best time is to file.

If your claim begins in January, February, or March, the wages determined are from a 12-month period of time consisting of the first four quarters. For example, if filed in January 2017, the base period is 12 months prior ending on the last day of September 2016. It includes most of 2016 and the last quarter of 2015. A filing in December, 2016, would go back further in 2015.

It may or may not matter, but all unemployment is still considered income and included when filing tax returns.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.


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