What Age Must You Be to Get Unemployment Benefits?

You need to be of working age to get unemployment benefits.
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Whether you're a young worker who has recently started a career or a retiree who has just lost a part-time job, you may wonder if you're too young or too old to collect unemployment benefits. When it comes to qualifying for state unemployment benefits, you have a chance as long as you are of working age, have some work history and can meet all your state's other qualifications. However, being a student, part-time worker or retiree comes with consideration to know.


Typical State Unemployment Benefit Requirements

No matter how old you are, each state's unemployment program will have its own list of criteria you must meet. For example, you usually must not have done something to get yourself fired, and you need to have the physical ability and the desire to perform work again. Efforts to find a new job and report that activity is usually part of the requirements. Further, your wages earned and length of employment usually need to meet your state's specific thresholds to qualify for benefits.


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However, be aware that some state requirements currently are waived due to legislation regarding COVID-19. For example, you might find that your state won't make you try to find a new job right now. You might still qualify for benefits if you had to take some time off work due to quarantine or if your work history or earnings don't quite reach your state's minimums.

Considerations for Newer Workers

Teens, college students and others relatively new to the workforce can find it more challenging to get unemployment benefits. The problem, however, doesn't lie in these workers' ages but rather in state requirements regarding work history, availability to work and student status.


Some states exclude students from claiming benefits since being a student reflects some unavailability to work due to needing to spend time dedicated to classes. At the same time, states often go back as far as 18 months of employment and examine four or five quarters of income, so it's not hard for younger workers to fall short of meeting those requirements. For example, a teen who works just on the weekends at a local supermarket may not earn enough to meet the state's threshold and may have gaps during which they couldn't work.

The good news is that workers with a more limited job and earnings history currently have a better chance of getting benefits if they've either lost hours, got laid off or couldn't begin a new job due to COVID-19. This could also help students who might otherwise not qualify due to their status since the legislation also applies to part-time workers. Those who qualify will get both the state benefit calculated and $600 a week from the federal government.


Considerations for Retirement Age Individuals

If you've retired from your full-time job and now collect your Social Security benefits, you could still qualify for unemployment benefits as long as you haven't fully left the workforce.

Getting Social Security checks alone won't disqualify you unless you receive the funds due to a disability. In that case, you won't pass your state's requirement for being able to work again and will thus not be able to receive unemployment benefits. On the other hand, if you are able to work and have continued working part-time past starting to receive Social Security, you can likely get benefits as long as the other state requirements get met.


Further, your unemployment check amount shouldn't be lowered simply because you get Social Security. However, keep in mind that your state might lower your benefit amount if you receive another form of retirement income like a pension. In that case, often your state goes by the amount that your employer has contributed and will reduce your benefits accordingly. The same may happen if you make withdrawals from a 401(k), so you'll want to research your state's specific provisions.