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  • Writer's pictureDavid Manes

Unemployment compensation: who is covered?

Unemployment insurance, often called unemployment compensation, is intended to provide financial support to people when they are out of work. Unemployment programs are run jointly between the federal government and the states and are paid for mostly by a tax on employers. However, there are many different ways in which unemployment is administered as each state has different statutory schemes.  These schemes differ in who qualifies and also how much money is available for each employee. To understand how unemployment works let’s take a closer look at who is generally covered by the unemployment insurance scheme and some of the Pennsylvania specific rules that govern.

Time requirement

Many states require that an employee have worked for a certain period of time before becoming unemployed in order to qualify for benefits. Many states mandate that you must have been employed for at least six months in the prior year to qualify.

In Pennsylvania you must have worked for 18  credit weeks in the previous base year. In order for a week to be counted as a credit week you must have earned at least $100 during that week while being “employed” and covered by unemployment insurance.

Minimum amount of wages earned or financial eligibility

All states require that you earn a specific amount of money during the previous base year.

In Pennsylvania they break down your previous work year into quarters and then determine your financial eligibility off of those quarters. PA requires that you have earned at least $1688 in at least one of the quarters to qualify. You must also have earned a certain amount of money over the entire base year. This is represented in a rather complicated chart that can be found on the PA unemployment compensation website.


You must be a U.S. citizen or have the documents required by the U.S. government to work legally in the U.S.

Available for work

You must be available for work, meaning that you will become ineligible if you take a new job or are unable to be reached by an employer offering work.

Must be fit to work

This means that you must be physically and mentally able to perform your old job or a similar one. Usually workers who are physically and mentally unable to work must apply for social security benefits outside of the unemployment scheme

PA specific rule

You must sign up for employment search services in Pennsylvania in order to be granted your benefits.

Compensation coverage in a nutshell

Unemployment Compensation insurance covers most workers and is part of federal and state law. Each state has different requirements and Pennsylvania has special rules for its unemployment qualifications.  The above list is not comprehensive, so do some research on your own to see if you qualify and contact Kraemer, Manes and Associates if you have any complicated questions and concerns.

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