New Jersey Unemployment: Eligibility and Benefits

Kelly Hernandez
An unemployed businessman showing his empty pockets.
Reading Time: 4 minutes

The unemployment insurance program is designed to provide financial assistance to those who are facing unemployment but aren’t financially prepared for a reduction or loss of income. Employers fund the program through taxes and it’s administered at a state level. In New Jersey, this program is run by the Division of Unemployment Insurance through the Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

Workers who lost their jobs may qualify for unemployment benefits if they’re willing and able to work and motivated to take on a new job. To receive benefits, applicants must provide information on their previous work history, including their salary and the reason they lost their job. By reviewing additional eligibility factors and the process of claiming unemployment benefits, you’ll understand how the unemployment insurance program works.

NJ Unemployment Eligibility Requirements

When you apply for unemployment benefits, the department must determine if you’re eligible to receive financial assistance. To qualify, you must be unemployed due to no fault of your own. Common acceptable reasons for job loss may include the following:

  • Your company experienced downsizing.
  • Your position was eliminated.
  • Your hours decreased dramatically.
  • You were laid off.

If you quit your job voluntarily or you were fired for misconduct, such as poor work performance, you won’t qualify for unemployment benefits. However, if you quit or were fired for a good reason that wasn’t your fault, you may still qualify to receive benefits. Your application is reviewed on a case-by-case basis and you may be required to answer additional questions to determine your reason for termination.

To qualify, you must also have earned a minimum income during your base year period, or the first four of the last five completed quarters (52 weeks) directly before you sent in your unemployment application. To be eligible, you must have earned a minimum of $200 per week for at least 20 weeks out of the total 52 weeks. During your entire base year period, you must have earned at least $10,000 while you were employed.

To continue receiving benefits after filing your first claim, you must meet additional qualifications. You should be able to prove you’re actively looking for work while you’re unemployed and you cannot turn down suitable job offers.

You may also be required to meet with Division of Unemployment Insurance workers by phone or in person. To continue receiving benefits each week, you cannot cancel or reschedule these appointments.

NJ Unemployment Benefits

When you apply for unemployment benefits and it’s determined that you’re eligible to receive financial assistance, you’ll receive compensation weekly. Each week, you must prove that you’re still eligible to receive these benefits by showing you’re actively searching for work and that you haven’t taken on a full-time job yet.

You have the choice to receive your weekly benefit amount by direct deposit or on a prepaid debit card. If you choose direct deposit, provide your bank account information and when your claim is processed each week your benefit amount is deposited directly into your account.

If you choose to have your benefits provided through a prepaid debit card, the card is mailed to you and you must activate the debit card by creating a PIN. Each week that you claim benefits and remain eligible, your weekly benefit amount is loaded onto the card. Use this debit card as you would any other debit card at any retailer that accepts this form of payment.

How Much Does Unemployment Pay?

The weekly benefit amount you qualify to receive depends on how much income you earned in your base year period. Your weekly benefit amount is calculated at 60% of the average weekly income you earned during your base year period. If you’re currently unemployed but earning money with a part-time job while claiming unemployment, your weekly benefit amount is reduced by the income you’re earning.

In 2020, the maximum weekly benefit amount you may be provided through the New Jersey unemployment insurance program is $713. No matter how much your average weekly income was during your base year period, your weekly benefit amount will never be higher than the maximum.

How to Apply for Unemployment in New Jersey

You can apply for New Jersey unemployment benefits online or by phone. To apply online, first register online using your email address. Once you’ve signed into your account, provide the information as requested, including your contact information, past salary calculations, and information on your former employers.

Submit your claim when it’s complete and you’ll receive a confirmation number. If additional information is needed, you’ll receive a request by mail or email. If your claim is approved, sign into your online account to log information on your work search activities. You can also sign into your online account to file your weekly unemployment claims.

To file your initial unemployment benefits claim by phone, call a Reemployment Call Center in your area. These centers are open every weekday, excluding federal holidays, from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. You must provide all information as prompted by a call center agent.

When you claim is filed, you may receive additional paperwork to complete by mail if more information is needed. If your claim is approved, you’re responsible for proving you’re engaging in mandatory work search activities to continue receiving benefits.

Materials Needed to File an Unemployment Claim

Before you begin the claim filing process online or by phone, gather the necessary documents so you can provide the information that’s requested. To file your unemployment claim, you’ll need:

  • Your name and contact information.
  • Your Social Security number.
  • The name, address, and contact information for your past employers for the last 18 months.
  • The reason you lost your job.
  • The dates you worked for employers over the past 18 months.
  • Information on pension and 401(k) income you receive, if any.
  • Your Military Form DD-214, if you served in the military.
  • Your Form SF-8 or SF-50, if you were a federal employee.
  • Your Alien Registration Number, if you aren’t a U.S. citizen or national.

For More Information on Filing for Unemployment in N.J.

If you plan to file your initial unemployment claim by phone, you must call the Reemployment Center number that corresponds to where you live, which is as follows:

  • North New Jersey Center: (201) 601-4100;
  • South New Jersey Center: (856) 507-2340;
  • Central New Jersey Center: (732) 761-2020;
  • Calling from out of state: (888) 795-6672;
  • New Jersey Relay Line: 7-1-1.

Your career is a financial asset and if you’ve lost your job unexpectedly, it can be hard to get back on your feet. The New Jersey unemployment program offers compensation to help during this financial emergency, as long as you can prove you’re actively looking for work and interested in gaining employment.

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