North Carolina Unemployment Benefits and Eligibility

In this article...
  • You may be entitled to North Carolina unemployment benefits if you meet the state's eligibility criteria. Learn how to claim and how much you'll receive.

Unemployed North Carolina residents may be entitled to financial support through the state's unemployment insurance (UI) program. The NC Division of Employment Security (DES) processes claims for unemployment benefits in North Carolina. The DES funds the program through employer UI tax contributions. 

Who Is Eligible for Unemployment Benefits in North Carolina?

To claim unemployment benefits in North Carolina, you must:

  • Meet the minimum earnings threshold during your base period
  • Have lost your job through no fault of your own
  • Be physically and mentally capable of working
  • Be available to work 
  • Search for a new job

Base Period Wages

The base period in North Carolina is usually the first four of the previous five calendar quarters before the one in which you file. However, people who didn't earn enough money to qualify through the usual base period may use an alternate base period, which is the last four completed quarters. If you're eligible through the main base period, you cannot choose to use the alternate period to achieve a higher determination.

You can only claim North Carolina unemployment benefits if you worked in covered employment for a minimum of two calendar quarters during your base period. Covered employment means that your employer paid UI tax.

Your total base period earnings must equal or exceed the average weekly insured wage multiplied by six. Therefore, the minimum earnings threshold changes each year depending on average wages in the state. 

Non-Monetary Eligibility

Your reasons for being unemployed affect whether you can claim unemployment benefits in North Carolina. Generally, you can claim if your employer terminated your employment for reasons unrelated to your performance, such as business closure or a lack of work. 

Being fired for misconduct disqualifies you from receiving benefits. For example, you may not qualify for assistance if your employer dismisses you for persistently poor performance or excessive absences. 

You can't usually claim unemployment benefits in North Carolina if you take a leave of absence or are involved in an active labor dispute. However, the state may make exceptions in some circumstances, so it's still worth applying if you feel your case has mitigating factors. 

Looking for Work

You must register for reemployment services online through NCWorks to be eligible for unemployment benefits. You should also log in regularly to maintain an active account. NCWorks helps connect benefits recipients with potential employers and offers a range of resources to help you get back to work. 

You should keep a record of at least three reemployment activities each week. Two of your activities must be verifiable contacts made with prospective employers. The following actions may count as one of your weekly reemployment activities:

  • Attending a course at an NCWorks Career Center
  • Attending an educational course to increase your employability, such as adult literacy, numeracy or English as a Second Language (ESL) classes 
  • Career counseling
  • Going to a career fair
  • Participating in a networking group

Accepting Suitable Work

Refusing a suitable job offer can negatively affect your benefits entitlement. Generally, you should accept any job in your usual occupation that matches your skills and offers similar pay to your previous roles. 

However, you will need to be more flexible about the type of work you will accept as your claim period progresses. Claimants must accept any job offer with wages of at least 120% of their weekly benefit amount (WBA) from week 11 onwards. 

How Do You Apply for North Carolina Unemployment Benefits?

You can apply for unemployment benefits online through the DES portal. People without internet access can attend their nearest NCWorks Career Center to use a computer. Claimants can also apply over the phone or get help with their claim at 888-737-0259.

You should file for North Carolina unemployment benefits as soon as you lose your job. Your employer may file on your behalf if it lays you off temporarily, but you can apply yourself if your employer declines to do so. 

You will need a valid email address and your Social Security number to apply for unemployment benefits in North Carolina. The DES may also ask you to verify your identity through

After filing your initial claim, you should complete a weekly claim online through your DES account. You can also file over the phone at the same number used to submit your initial claim. Claimants should file while awaiting a decision on their initial application or appeal, and failing to submit weekly claims will result in a missed payment. You will need to answer questions about your availability and ability to work and work search activities to complete your claim.

How Much Do You Get From North Carolina Unemployment?

Your WBA is your total earnings from the last two base period quarters divided by 52 and rounded down to a whole dollar figure. You won't qualify for North Carolina unemployment benefits if your WBA works out as less than $15. The most you can receive per week is $350 for a maximum of 12 weeks. 

You can work during your claim and continue receiving unemployment benefits. However, any earnings can affect your WBA, and you must report all wages in your weekly claim. You can receive up to 20% of your WBA in wages without a benefits deduction. Any earnings exceeding 20% will reduce your entitlement dollar-for-dollar. 

What Happens If Unemployment Benefits in North Carolina Are Denied?

You can't appeal a benefits determination in North Carolina if the DES decides that you are monetarily ineligible. However, you can appeal if the division denies your claim for other reasons. You should submit your appeal in writing within the timeframe stated in your determination letter. Your letter will also include details of where to send your appeal. Appeals must include:

  • A statement that you wish to appeal the determination
  • The determination issue ID number or docket number
  • Your full name, contact information and email address
  • Your reasons for appealing
  • Any evidence that could support your claim

You will then receive a scheduled hearing, where a referee will assess the merit of your appeal. You may present first-hand witnesses at the hearing, and you must provide copies of any evidence in advance if your hearing is conducted over the phone.

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