Can I Work Part-Time and Receive Unemployment Benefits?

In this article...
  • You can work part-time and collect unemployment benefits in most states. Each state has its own rules for benefit limits, earnings, weeks of eligibility and hours worked. 

Can I Work Part-Time and Receive Unemployment Benefits?

Unemployment insurance can be a lifesaver for workers who have lost jobs and income through no fault of their own. Millions of Americans learned this the hard way during the COVID-19 pandemic, when people who never expected to be unemployed suddenly lost their jobs.

Unemployment benefits vary by state, and each state sets its own rules and regulations based on certain federal laws and guidelines. Some states will allow those collecting unemployment to work part-time and still receive benefits.

Here’s what to know.  

Unemployment Insurance

Unemployment insurance is a benefit provided by the state government to those who find themselves out of work through no fault of their own. The insurance fund is paid into by workers and employers through taxes. It pays out-of-work workers a certain amount to help them cover basic expenses while looking for new employment.

According to the job posting website, you may qualify for unemployment if you:

  • Lost your job through company layoffs
  • Lost work hours significantly
  • Are placed on a temporary furlough or a “zero-hour” schedule

You are not eligible for unemployment if you quit your job, voluntarily reduce your hours or are fired for just cause.

Your actual weekly benefit is determined based on your earnings at the job you lost. It is only some percentage of those earnings, not the entire amount. The percentage is different in each state.

The length of unemployment coverage also differs by state. Each state limits how long you can claim unemployment to between 12 and 26 weeks of unemployment eligibility per year. There is no requirement to use all of your unemployment eligibility at one time. Many people move in and out of unemployment several times. So you can take a temporary job and suspend unemployment during the job’s term, then return to collecting unemployment when that job is over.

Most states require those collecting unemployment to prove they are available for and actively looking for full-time work to qualify for unemployment benefits.

Unemployment and Part-Time Work says that most states will allow you to collect unemployment if you work part-time. These benefits are considered partial unemployment benefits and are intended to help those who lost full-time employment but found some part-time work to support themselves and their families while they look for full-time employment.

A part-time job is generally a job where the work schedule is less than 30 to 40 hours per week. “Different governmental organizations have varying classifications for part-time vs. full-time work. For instance, the Bureau of Labor Statistics considers part-time at or below 35 hours per week, but the IRS classifies part-time at or below 30 hours,” says Individual companies can also determine what they consider full-time and part-time employment.

Part-Time Employment Examples

Part-time jobs typically pay hourly wages instead of salaries. They are also covered by the federal Fair Labor Standards Act's coverage, which sets standards for equal pay, hourly limits, minimum wage and overtime pay, break time and more. lists the following examples of common part-time employment jobs:

  • Receptionist
  • Barista
  • Bank teller
  • Cashier
  • Cook
  • Delivery driver
  • Customer service representative

Report Part-Time Wages

Those who work part-time must keep careful records of how much they work and report those hours and wages to their state’s unemployment office. The state will consider these wages as it calculates your partial unemployment benefits.

Failure to report wages and earnings may cause you to lose your benefits. It may also be considered insurance fraud, a crime. The state may also make you repay any unemployment benefits you received, along with penalties, says

Quitting a Part-Time Job warns those on unemployment to take a part-time job only if they are sure they won’t quit it. Quitting a job is considered voluntary unemployment, and may cause you to lose your unemployment insurance coverage.

Some states may allow you to quit for a justifiable reason, but those reasons vary from state to state. So check with your state’s unemployment insurance department for clear instructions.

More Information

Because each state has different rules for collecting unemployment, including whether part-time work is allowed, it’s important to contact your state’s unemployment office for the information that's relevant to you and your work situation

Your state’s Department of Labor website should have information about unemployment insurance, contact information and links to sources that can help with a job search, including:

  • Job postings
  • Job fairs
  • Job-interview preparation and techniques
  • Job training, education and seminars
About the Author

David Levine is an award-winning writer and editor whose work has been featured in the New York Times, New York Daily News, Sports Illustrated, American Heritage, U.S. News & World Report and others.

David has covered health, health insurance and health policy topics – among many others – since 2017. He earned a Bachelor's Degree in English from the University of Rochester and currently lives in Albany, New York.

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