If you file for unemployment benefits and qualify for them, you will receive those benefits based on your earned income from one year and one quarter back (a quarter is a 3-month period). There is a limit to how many benefits are available or accumulated in your account; they are also based on these same earnings. Depending on your earnings there may be benefits left over in your unemployment account after you stop receiving benefits, even if you continue receiving benefits for as long as the law allows, usually 26 weeks. The leftover benefits will remain in your account if you do not collect them. If you become unemployed again, they will be available to you so long as they are not older than the one year and one-quarter period that a new claim is based on.
Employers who pay in but whose employees never collect unemployment do not get the money they paid in back. Employers pay a percentage of their total payroll into the unemployment insurance program.
The best answers to any questions you may have about unemployment insurance come from your local state unemployment office. Unemployment benefits are administered through each state and vary in policies and regulations from one state to another.