Federal Benefits - New Jersey Unemployment Benefits and Eligibility

In this article...
  • Find out how New Jersey unemployment benefits and eligibility are administered, including how to tell if you're eligible and how to file initial and weekly claims.

The Division of Unemployment Insurance, part of the Department of Labor and Workforce Development, manages New Jersey unemployment benefits and eligibility. If you've lost your job or had your hours cut through no fault of your own, you could qualify for unemployment benefits to temporarily replace some of your wages and help you meet your living expenses. Employer taxes fund the scheme at no cost to the taxpayer. 

How Do I Apply for New Jersey Unemployment Insurance Benefits?

You can apply for unemployment benefits in New Jersey online via the Division of Unemployment's benefits portal. Alternatively, you can complete your application over the phone at one of the following numbers:

  • North New Jersey:  201-601-4100
  • Central New Jersey:  732-761-2020
  • South New Jersey:  856-507-2340
  • Out-of-state claims:  888-795-6672

Ex-maritime employees can only claim New Jersey unemployment benefits over the phone.

During your application, you'll need to provide information about your identity and earnings. This will allow assessors to determine your eligibility. Ensure you have the following information ready:

  • Social Security or Alien Registration number
  • New Jersey driver's license or state ID number
  • 18-month employment record, including your employers' contact details, employment dates and your reasons for leaving each job
  • Details of any income, such as a pension or separation pay
  • Union hiring hall contact details (if applicable)
  • SF-8 or SF-50 form (federal workers)
  • DD-214 form (military employees)

You will then receive a Notice to Claimant of Benefit Determination letter if your request is granted, explaining how much you will receive and how it was worked out. Unsuccessful applicants will receive a Notice of Invalid Claim. You may also receive a letter explaining how to make weekly benefits claims and the dates of any appointments you're expected to attend. 

You may be asked to supply further information if the Division of Unemployment Insurance cannot decide your case based on what you've provided. You should reply to any requests as quickly as possible to avoid payment delays.

Your application will be counted from the Sunday in your claim week. You must then complete a weekly claim online to certify your continued eligibility, beginning on the Wednesday 17 days after your initial claim. You should do so even if your claim is still being processed or you are waiting for appeal results because it will allow your benefits payments to be backdated. 

You will be given a day and time to certify for unemployment benefits each week based on the last 4 digits of your Social Security number. You will also be given a second slot to use on a Friday if you forgot to certify on the correct day.

How Does New Jersey Unemployment Benefits Eligibility Work?

You must satisfy New Jersey's monetary and non-monetary eligibility criteria to claim unemployment insurance benefits successfully. You will have an appointment with a claims examiner to establish whether your earnings and unemployment circumstances make you eligible. 

Monetary Eligibility Criteria

New Jersey uses how much you were paid during a base period to decide if you qualify for benefits and how much you'll get. Like most U.S. states, New Jersey defines the base period as the first four of the five calendar quarters preceding the one in which you claim. 

Eligible claimants must have earned a minimum of $220 per week during at least 20 weeks of the base period. Alternatively, you can claim benefits if your total earnings equaled or exceeded $11,000. Only work completed for a covered employer counts, which means your employer must have made tax contributions towards the unemployment insurance program.

If you don't qualify, you may be allowed to use an alternate base year to determine eligibility. You can't choose to use an alternate base year if you qualify under the usual system. 

Non-Monetary Eligibility Criteria

You can only receive New Jersey unemployment benefits if your employment was terminated or your hours were reduced in circumstances that are not your fault. For example, you can claim if you lost your job due to business downsizing. However, you will not be eligible if you were fired following poor performance, misconduct or committing a criminal offense. 

You cannot get unemployment insurance benefits if you quit your job unless your reasons were directly related to your employer and so compelling that any reasonable person would react similarly. You will need to prove that you were forced to quit because of unsafe or unhealthy conditions that you could not resolve with your employer before leaving. You may also be able to claim if you left your job to flee domestic abuse or to accompany your spouse following a work transfer. 

Weekly Eligibility Criteria

You will be expected to make yourself available for work during your claim period and do everything you can to find a job. You may be asked to demonstrate what you've done to secure work.

You should keep any evidence, such as email correspondence with potential employers and job applications. You may have to attend mandatory appointments to help you get back into the workforce, and missing them could affect your ongoing eligibility. 

You cannot claim unemployment benefits on any given week if you are unable to work. For example, you may lose your benefits for a particular week if you are sick or don't have transport or childcare in place. 

You will also be expected to take up any suitable employment offer. Generally, suitable work is defined as being safe, within a reasonable commuting distance and roughly comparable to your previous roles and salary. You may be expected to accept less ideal jobs, such as those paying less than you used to be, if you have been on benefits for some time. 

How Much Will I Get?

You can claim New Jersey unemployment benefits for a maximum of 26 weeks. Your weekly benefit amount will be 60% of your average weekly earnings or $731, whichever is lower. Payments are made via direct bank transfer or loaded onto a debit card. 

You may be able to claim up to 15% extra if you have a dependent spouse or children. You may also be eligible to claim partial benefits if you still have some paid work but your hours have been reduced. 

What If I Am Denied New Jersey Unemployment Benefits?

If your application is unsuccessful, you can file an appeal within 7 days of receiving your determination notice if you think the decision is wrong. You can appeal using an appeal form online or in writing to this address:

New Jersey Department of Labor
Appeal Tribunal
P.O. Box 907
Trenton, NJ 08625-0907