Jobless benefits: Your questions answered

By Julianne Pepitone, CNNMoney.com contributing writer


NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Extended unemployment benefits may be available for Americans who exhaust their standard jobless insurance -- but the programs, as well as who's included in government data, can be confusing.

Because programs and eligibility standards change frequently, the best thing to do is contact your state's labor division. But here are answers to some common questions.

1. Who is included in the unemployment rate?
Only people who have actively looked for work in the past four weeks are included -- regardless of whether they file for unemployment benefits. The Labor Department conducts a monthly population survey, asking simply if you've sought work in the past four weeks.

As a result, the unemployment rate is not impacted by or related to the number of people who are -- or are not -- eligible to collect unemployment benefits.

2. What is the difference between initial and continuing claims?
The government's initial claims number identifies those people filing for their first week of unemployment benefits. Continuing claims reflect those people filing each week after their initial claim, up to their 26th week. After that, they are no longer counted in that total.

3. How many weeks of unemployment do I get?
A maximum of 26 weeks to start. (Well, except in Montana, which offers up to 28 weeks, and Massachusetts, which has a max of 30 weeks).

Eligibility depends on how long you worked and how much you made prior to becoming unemployed. Not every filer receives the maximum number of weeks available.

4. What if I run out?
You can get at least another 20 weeks in most instances.

In June 2008, Congress passed the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program, which extended the number of weeks available in those states that opted to be a part of the program. All did.

On top of that, those states with an insured unemployment of 4% or higher, or a total unemployment rate higher than 6% can offer another 13 weeks for a total of 33 weeks under EUC.

5. Is there anything after that?
Possibly another 20 weeks.

For those states whose insured unemployment is at 5% or higher, or total unemployment rate is above 6.5%, the federal government will pay for another 13 weeks of benefits. When the total unemployment tops 8%, states may enact a voluntary program to receive federal money for another 7 weeks of benefits. To top of page

Frontline troops push for solar energy
The U.S. Marines are testing renewable energy technologies like solar to reduce costs and casualties associated with fossil fuels. Play
25 Best Places to find rich singles
Looking for Mr. or Ms. Moneybags? Hunt down the perfect mate in these wealthy cities, which are brimming with unattached professionals. More
Fun festivals: Twins to mustard to pirates!
You'll see double in Twinsburg, Ohio, and Ketchup lovers should beware in Middleton, WI. Here's some of the best and strangest town festivals. Play
Index Last Change % Change
Dow 17,826.30 -279.47 -1.54%
Nasdaq 4,931.82 -75.98 -1.52%
S&P 500 2,081.18 -23.81 -1.13%
Treasuries 1.85 -0.03 -1.49%
Data as of 7:26am ET
Company Price Change % Change
Bank of America Corp... 15.56 -0.23 -1.46%
General Electric Co 27.25 -0.03 -0.11%
Apple Inc 124.75 -1.42 -1.13%
Comcast Corp 58.42 -1.25 -2.09%
Microsoft Corp 41.62 -0.54 -1.29%
Data as of Apr 17
Sponsors

Sections

Lucas will finance 100% of the project at Grady Ranch and wants Marin County teachers and police officers to be able to live there. More

It's the second big layoff at Schlumberger this year. The oil services company cut 9,000 workers in January. More

The Smokio e-cigarette pairs with an app on your phone to keep track of how much you smoke, and how much money you've saved by not buying tobacco cigarettes. More

The home of some of the most iconic toys has teamed up with a crowdsourcing platform for inventors to find the next great toys. More