How Long Do Unemployment Benefits Last?

Although most states provide unemployment benefits for 26 weeks (or fewer), Congress sometimes authorizes further benefits during periods of high unemployment.

By , J.D., University of Missouri School of Law

If you've lost your job, you might be wondering whether you qualify for unemployment benefits and how long they last.

Unemployment compensation is a joint federal-state program, intended to provide some economic support for those who have temporarily lost their jobs, through no fault of their own.

Generally, federal law determines the basics, while state law sets specifics such as who is eligible, how much applicants will receive, and for how long.

How Long Does Unemployment Last?

In normal economic times, most states offer unemployment benefits for up to 26 weeks. Nine states provide benefits for a shorter amount of time, while two states offer benefits that last longer than 26 weeks.

States Offering Fewer Than 26 Weeks of Unemployment Benefits

As of 2022, nine states provide unemployment benefits for fewer than 26 weeks. They are:

  • Alabama (14 weeks)
  • Arkansas (16 weeks)
  • Florida* (12 weeks)
  • Idaho* (20 weeks)
  • Kansas* (16 weeks)
  • Michigan (20 weeks)
  • Missouri (20 weeks)
  • North Carolina, and
  • South Carolina (20 weeks).

(* denotes states that periodically change the number of weeks available depending on their state's unemployment rate.)

Unemployment Benefits: States Offering More Than 26 Weeks

As of 2022, only two states provide unemployment benefits for more than 26 weeks. Those states are:

  • Massachusetts (30 weeks) and
  • Montana (28 weeks).

Extended Unemployment Benefits

An employee who has exhausted all state benefits might be able to apply for extended benefits. Extended benefits are a joint federal-state program that provides an additional 13 weeks of benefits to eligible employees when state unemployment rates are high; states have the option of offering an additional 7 weeks of benefits (for a total of 20 weeks) when unemployment rates are extremely high.

As of 2022, no states qualify for the extended benefits program based on their unemployment rates. To find current information, check the federal Department of Labor's Unemployment page.

For More Information and Help

To get detailed information on your state's rules, unemployment rates, eligibility requirements, and more, go to the website of your state's unemployment agency. Also, if you need more legal advice or help get in touch with a local Unemployment Attorney.

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