How Unemployment is Determined in California

Updated on December 14, 2016
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Use the above to determine how your claim will be determined.
Use the above to determine how your claim will be determined.

Filing for unemployment is a very good safety net most Americans can use should they be unemployed due to no fault of themselves. 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 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 it, while the last one, will not.

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.

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.

If you apply in January 2017, your claim is based upon your earnings between the end of second quarter of 2016 back to the start of the third quarter of 2015. The claimed 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 claims 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 last quarter of 2015. A filling 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.


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