How The Federal Unemployment Tiers Work

How do the unemployment tiers work?

(Last updated December 2011) With unemployment rising quickly in 2008 then President George Bush signed a bill to approve the extension of federal unemployment compensation. That meant that the federal government would continue to provide money to dislocated workers who had exhausted their state benefits. The federal government breaks down levels of assistance into “tiers”. We started hearing about the “99ers”; people would qualify for 99 weeks of compensation. Many people wrongly assumed that anyone who was unemployed would receive 99 weeks of benefits. There are three important things to know about federal unemployment tiers and extended benefits.

The four unemployment tiers

The first thing you want to understand is the number of tiers and the number of weeks assigned to each tier. As of this writing in May 2011 there were 4 tiers, that are scheduled to be in effect, based on your state's unemployment rate, until January 3, 2012. Here are the numbers of weeks assigned to each Emergency Unemployment Tier:

EUC Tier I is for up to 20 additional weeks if you have exhausted regular UC benefits. This level is contingent on the phase out deadlines.
EUC Tier II is for up to 14 additional weeks and is contingent only on the phase out deadlines.
EUC Tier III is for up to 13 additional weeks if your state’s previous 3 month average is 6% or higher.
EUC Tier IV is for up to 6 additional weeks if your state’s previous 3 month average is 8.5% or higher.

This means that if you have exhausted your 26 weeks of state
unemployment benefits you are eligible to begin Tier 1 which would provide you up to 20 more additional weeks of compensation.

The second important factor is your own state’s unemployment rate. The reason you keep seeing the words “up to” is because these additional weeks of compensation are contingent on your state’s unemployment rate, not just the country’s unemployment rate. You will be eligible for fewer tiers as your state's unemployment rate falls. Key milestones are at or above 8.5%, 6%-8.4%, and below 6%. For example, tiers will begin to phase out in your state as the unemployment rate moves from to 8.4% to and 5.9%. For example, Pennsylvania announced on March 14, that the three month average unemployment rate had fallen to 8.4%, thus the 6 weeks of Tier 4 benefits were being eliminated as of April 2, 2011.

Extended unemployment benefits

Thirdly, note that federal emergency unemployment benefits (EUC) are paid before state extended benefits (EB) are paid. EUC is a federal initiative. EB is a state initiative. If you have been unemployed long enough to exhaust your initial state benefits and then the various federal tiers of EUC, you may qualify for extended benefits through your state.

Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry explained it this way in February 2011, “The Pennsylvania UC Law was recently amended to increase the maximum amount of EB a claimant may receive if Pennsylvania enters a ‘high unemployment period,’ or HUP. A HUP occurs when Pennsylvania’s total unemployment rate reaches 8 percent. Pennsylvania's total unemployment rate has risen to the level necessary to create a HUP.”

“As a result of the HUP, if you were financially eligible for 13 weeks of regular EB, your financial eligibility is increased to 20 weeks. If you were financially eligible for 8 weeks of regular EB, your financial eligibility is increased to 12.8 weeks.”

If you have exhausted your federal unemployment tiers

In Pennsylvania, for example, if you’ve gone through all the tiers of federal unemployment compensation, and the average unemployment in the state for the last three months has been 8% or higher, you will qualify for 20 more weeks of benefits, at the same rate you have been receiving. If the three month average was 6.5% to 7.99% you would receive 13 weeks. These benefits are paid from the state.

Why education, unemployment, and salary expectations all go together.

5 ideas for eliminating the employment gaps on your resume.

Why education, unemployment, and salary expectations all go together.

unemployment and education levelThinking about skipping school? There are many reasons why you should invest in education, but your income potential is the most important one.

If you are between the ages of 16 and 24 consider what an education means to the amount of money you have in your
pocket and bank account. The Economic Policy Institute says, "In 2010, the unemployment rate for workers age 16-24 was 18.4%—the worst on record in the 60 years that this data has been tracked." Additionally in 2010, "Young high school graduates have been hardest hit: The unemployment rate for
high school graduates under age 25 who were not enrolled in school was 22.5%, compared with 9.3% for college graduates of the same age."

Salary expectations by education level (2010).
Less than high school $444.00 per week / 14.9% unemployment
High school  $626.00 per week / 10.3%
Some college  $712.00 per week / 9.2%
Associates degree $767.00 per week / 7.0%
Bachelors degree $1,038 per week / 5.4%
Masters degree $1,272 per week / 4.0%
Professional degree $1,610 per week / 2.4%
Doctoral degree $1,550 per week / 1.9%

2011 Unemployment rates by education level.
Unemployment rate for those with no high school diploma: 14.3%
Unemployment rate for those with a high school diploma: 9.6%
Unemployment rate for those with some college: 8.2%
Unemployment rate for those with a college diploma: 4.3%
Source: August 2011 Bureau of Labor Statistics, Table A-4


5 ideas for eliminating the employment gaps on your resume.

How The Federal Unemployment Tiers WorkIf there is a gap in your employment you are immediately at a disadvantage when applying for jobs. If you don't believe it, Google "employment gap" or "unemployment discrimination" and read the news. Some employers have said they're unwilling to hire unemployed workers because they believe that if a worker has once been let go, that's a sign that he or she is probably not a great hire. Others believe that if someone is out of work for an extended period of time, their basic work skills (taking orders, showing up to work on time, etc.) will erode and make them less valuable to the company.

What is important.
When considering how your resume or work history looks to a potential employer remember that a gap in your employment looks like a black eye on an otherwise attractive face. Their first question may be why do you have the gap? In most cases though you are not around to explain in your own words what happened. In that case employers may tend to answer their own question with the biases listed above. It is important to legitimately eliminate the employment gap all together. You must have something productive listed on your resume for current activity. We'll see five examples below on how to do that.

What isn't important.
Hours are not important. When was the last time you saw any resume that noted how many hours were worked at the job? It doesn't matter how many hours you spend doing the current productive activity you will be involved in. If you are working 1 hour every day answering the phones at your friend's business, your resume would show that you currently hold an administrative assistant position. Your resume wouldn't say "I spend 5 hours a week helping out my best friend during lunch".

1. Temporary work agencies.
Temporary work agencies are staffed by professional job finders. They are literally calling employers all day long looking for work and are some of the most networked people in the business world. Their first priority is to know where the jobs are. Their next priority is to match you up with one of those jobs! The beauty of working with a temp agency is the flexibility. You can find work for one day or for many months.

2. Library
While the library most likely will not pay you they will probably have something you can do to help out. Larger libraries host a wide variety of programs for all ages and segments of the community. One idea in particular is to be a mentor or coach. Those are always in need. What can you teach others to do? Are you a teacher - teach someone to read. Are you a software developer - teach someone to use a computer, software, or the web. Are you a nurse - teach someone to eat right or exercise properly. The list can go on and on. Go to the library, ask for the library director, tell her what your skills are, and ask to be matched up with an appropriate program. Then update your resume to say "Community Coach", "Mentor", or "Consultant".

3. Chamber of commerce
Job fairs are great because it is a large room loaded with hiring managers all in one spot. It makes networking and job hunting very easy. The same is true with your local chamber of commerce. A chamber of commerce will generally host many business and community functions each month. Their priority is networking - providing forums for everyone to meet each other and potentially do business. Where do you fit in? Approach the chamber staff, tell them what your skills are, and ask to be matched up with businesses or events that need temporary help. Many of the chamber's business members would be eager to have you help them through short term projects they are working on. In fact the chamber itself may be able to use your skills. Make sure your resume reflects your current work with the chamber.

4. A part-time job
Taking part-time work while searching for full-time work may benefit you with additional income (you can earn x amount of money while unemployed without losing your
unemployment benefits) and having a current job to list on your resume. Remember you don't list how many hours you work on your resume; you list the jobs you are holding or have held. An employer reviewing your application may not know you are only working 15 hours a week, but will see that you are a working, that someone else believes you are employable.

Holding a part-time job while you search for full time work could also provide you with new skills, new contacts, and new ideas in addition to building your resume and your household income.

5. College or vocational studies
Upgrading your education or professional skills is a perfectly legitimate and productive use of your time. If you chose this route be sure to list it on your resume as your current activity. Also write what an employer will gain from hiring you once you graduate with your new or upgraded skill set. Employers love new graduates. It means they don't have to invest as much in your training and you've just been educated in the most current practices within the industry.

What doesn't make good employment gap filler?
"I just needed time off from work."
"I needed to care for my (fill in the blank)."
"I've been fixing up my house."
"I saw every game during March Madness."
"I took my kids to Disneyworld."

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