Pennsylvania Unemployment Benefits and Eligibility

In this article...
  • If you're unemployed through no fault of your own, you might qualify for Pennsylvania unemployment benefits. Learn who can claim benefits and how to apply.

Pennsylvania's Unemployment Compensation (UC) program can temporarily replace some of your lost wages if you become unemployed. The Office of Unemployment Compensation manages the UC system and provides re-employment services to help eligible claimants rejoin the workforce.

Who Is Eligible for Unemployment Benefits in Pennsylvania?

The eligibility criteria for Pennsylvania unemployment benefits are complicated, and understanding how they work can make it easier to apply and manage your claim. You'll need to fulfill financial, job separation and weekly claim criteria to qualify.

Financial Eligibility

The financial eligibility criteria for Pennsylvania unemployment benefits vary significantly from most other states. Claimants must earn at least $1,688 during the highest-paid quarter of the base period (the first four of the last five completed calendar quarters.) Furthermore, you must have earned at least 37% of your base period wages outside your highest-paid quarter. 

You must also have a minimum number of credit weeks within your base period. A credit week is any week in which you made $116 or more from Sunday through Saturday, and you must have at least 18 credit weeks to qualify for benefits.

You can apply to use an alternate base period if you don't qualify through the usual route because you lost wages following a work-related injury. In this situation, the state may allow you to use the four completed calendar quarters directly preceding your injury as your base period. 

Separation Eligibility

The Office of Unemployment Compensation will examine your reasons for job separation if you satisfy the financial eligibility criteria.

You can't usually claim unemployment benefits if you lost an employed position but made most of your base period income through a self-employed business that you still operate. However, you may be eligible if you run a sideline business, providing you don't increase your self-employed work and you're available for full-time work. 

You'll generally meet the state's job separation eligibility criteria if your employer dismisses you for reasons that aren't your fault. You might be ineligible for benefits if your employer discharged you for misconduct. Whether misconduct disqualifies you from benefits depends on the reason for dismissal and your behavior's impact on your employer's business. Your employer may need to prove they provided adequate warnings before terminating your employment in some circumstances. 

You may be eligible for benefits if you quit your job, but you'll need to prove you had a good, work-related cause. Generally, you must demonstrate that you made reasonable efforts to resolve the issue before quitting. For example, you must request reasonable adjustments to your duties before leaving work for health reasons. You can't claim benefits if your reasons for quitting still prevent you from accepting a new position. 

Maintaining Eligibility

You must meet the state's ongoing eligibility criteria each week to continue receiving unemployment benefits in Pennsylvania. This includes:

  • Signing up for re-employment services with PA CareerLink
  • Participating in any re-employment services scheduled for you through the Claimant Profiling System
  • Reporting to your local UC service center when required
  • Remaining available to work full-time, even if you already have part-time employment

You must also complete two job applications and a third re-employment activity every week and keep an accurate job search record. The Office of Unemployment Compensation may ask to see your records at any time. You should search for jobs in your usual industry within a 45-minute commute and accept any suitable offer. However, the office may not require you to search for work if you:

  • Are enrolled in a Shared Work plan
  • Have union hall membership
  • Are undertaking approved training
  • Have a definite return-to-work date with your existing employer
  • Have a scheduled re-employment session that prevents you from searching for work

How Do You Apply for Pennsylvania Unemployment Benefits?

You can make your initial claim for Pennsylvania unemployment insurance through the online Unemployment Compensation System. Alternatively, you can file by phone at (888) 313-7284.

People who communicate through American Sign Language (ASL) can claim through the videophone service at (717) 704-8474. This service is available on Wednesdays from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. 

You should have the following information available to file your claim:

  • Social Security number
  • Home and mailing address
  • Email address
  • Phone number
  • UC system login details (if you already have an account)
  • Banking details if you prefer payments through direct deposit

You must also provide information about your last employer and why you no longer work there. Provide up-to-date contact details, employment dates and information about any pension or severance packages owed to you. 

You must then file a weekly certification to continue receiving benefits. Claimants must certify that they meet the ongoing eligibility criteria to receive their weekly benefits. There are three options for filing your weekly claim:

  • Online through your UC System account
  • By phone through the PA Teleclaims system (PAT) at (888) 255-4728
  • Via the TeleTYpe (TTY) system at (888) 334-4046

How Much Do You Get From Pennsylvania Unemployment?

Your weekly benefit amount (WBA) is around 50% of your average weekly wage during your base period. The maximum you can receive is $594 per week.

You may also be entitled to an allowance for your dependents. If you're married, you can claim $5 per week for your dependent spouse and an extra $3 per week for a dependent child. People without a dependent spouse can receive $5 per week for their first dependent child and $3 for a second child. The maximum weekly allowance for dependents is $8. 

You and your spouse cannot claim the allowance for the same children if you both receive unemployment benefits in the same benefit year. However, you can claim for different children. A child qualifies as a dependent if they are under 18 or have a disability that stops them from working if they're older. You can only claim your spouse or child as a dependent if you're entirely or mainly responsible for supporting them financially.

Any income earned during the week can affect your payment amount, so you should report any earnings from employment or self-employment to avoid an overpayment. Income, such as retirement or severance pay, can also affect your entitlement. 

What Happens if Unemployment Claims in Pennsylvania Are Denied?

You can appeal a benefits denial within 21 calendar days of the mailing date on your UC service center determination letter. The letter will include an address and fax number for appeals. Alternatively, you can lodge an appeal online through your Unemployment Compensation System account. 

You'll then receive a hearing appointment, where a referee will examine any supporting evidence and hear your case. If you disagree with the hearing result, you can appeal to the UC Board of Review within 21 days to the address on your decision letter. 

Read More
Woman goes back to school
Find out if you're eligible for Alaska unemployment benefits if you lose your job and how much you'll ...
Two women chat while one uses her laptop computer
Learn more about your eligibility for unemployment benefits in the state of California, how benefits ...
Smiling grandfather with young grandchildren
Indiana unemployment benefits provide financial support if you're unemployed. Learn whether you qualify ...