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Know Your Rights – Mississippi Unemployment

Last Verified: January 2017

The Mississippi Department of Employment Security offers financial and employment services to workers who recently lost a job through no fault of their own. While the state is eager to offer assistance amidst a slowly growing economy, the state legislature plans to cut the unemployment tax on employers, which may curtail the already meager weekly benefits the unemployed in the state receive. Fox Business ranks Mississippi as one of the worst states to be unemployed. The benefits cover less than one-third of the average wages.

Eligibility for Unemployment Benefits in MS

To be eligible to receive unemployment benefits in Mississippi, the MDES requires that displaced workers:

  • Be fully or partially unemployed
  • Have lost their job through no fault of their own
  • Meet the earnings requirement
  • Be able and available to go to work
  • Registered with a job center
  • Be able to work legally in the US

If you don’t meet the earnings requirement, the inquiry into your eligibility ends there. You may have enough “wage credits” (have made enough money over the past 18 months), but still have issues with your separation from work that could cause the state to disqualify you.

If you do become eligible for benefits, you have to maintain eligibility over the entire period in which you receive them.

Eligibility Requirements Explained

Lost Your Job Through No Fault of Your Own

If you lost your job because of events beyond your control, you may be pass this eligibility test. If your boss’s business shut down or your boss didn’t need any workers in your position, you may be eligible to receive benefits. If your actions or decisions caused your separation from work (you quit or they fired you for misconduct), you may be disqualified.

Able and Available to Work

You must be physically and mentally able to accept suitable employment. If you are too sick to work or disabled when you file your initial claim, you may be disqualified.

You must be available to take a reasonable job offer. You have to be willing to rearrange your class schedule if you are in school, for example. If you work part-time, your part-time work can’t prevent you from taking a job (or looking for work).

Registered With the Job Center

Mississippi provides job search assistance to all its residents through the WIN Job Centers, located across the state. Registering with the job center is a requirement for receiving benefits, as well as one way to show the state you want to become reemployed eventually.

Monetary Eligibility Requirements and the Base Period

To be eligible initially, you have to earn sufficient wages during the first four of the last five quarters (3 month periods) before you filed your claim. Those four quarters make up the “base period” the state will use to determine your eligibility.

unemployment base period
This chart shows the base period for a monetary determination

To meet the monetary requirements, you:

  • Must have worked in at least two quarters of your base period
  • Must have earned at least $780.00 in the highest quarter of your base period
  • Must have earned 40 times your weekly benefit amount in your base period

Mississippi does not use the Alternative Base Period method to determine eligibility. So if you don’t meet the monetary requirements under the standard method, you have to reapply after you have earned sufficient wages.

Maximum and Minimum Unemployment Benefits in MS

The state also uses the base period to determine how much you’ll receive in benefits. The amount you receive each week (weekly benefit amount or WBA) is the total wages you made in the quarter where you earned the most money divided by 26 (the maximum number of weeks you can receive benefits is 26).

The minimum WBA in Mississippi is $30. The maximum is $235. The max you can receive in the benefit year is 26 times your WBA or one-third of your total base period wages, whichever is less.

The state provides a chart to help you estimate your potential WBA at the MDES website.

Part-time Work and Unemployment in MS

You may work part-time and still receive benefits. If your employer significantly reduced your hours from full-time to below part-time, you may file a claim. However, the state will deduct money from your WBA if you make over $40 during the week for which you file benefits. So, if you earn $41 and your WBA is $100, you will only receive $99 that week from the state (you’ll keep the $41 you earned).

You have to report any earnings during the week you earned them, not the week the employer paid you. If you don’t report earnings when you receive them, the state will consider this fraud. You may lose your right to receive benefits or even face court charges. You will have to repay the benefits you received.

How to Apply for Unemployment Benefits in MS

You may file your initial claim for benefits online, by telephone or in person at a WIN Job Center.

To file online:

  • Register with the MDES Applicant Services website
  • Login and follow the instructions

To file by telephone:

Call 601-855-3133 or 1-888-844-3577.

To file with assistance from an MDES employee, visit a local WIN Job Center. You may need this option (or the telephone option) if you need assistance in a foreign language.

No matter how you file your claim, you will need to provide the state with the following information:

  • Your Social Security number
  • Your complete mailing address and phone number
  • The names, addresses, and phone numbers for all your employers for the last eighteen months
  • The dates you worked and the reason you left each employer
  • Alien Registration number or Visa number, if you are not a U.S. Citizen

MDES will not take claims on new or reopened cases by phone or in person on Mondays and Tuesdays. You can file online anytime. If you were active military, a federal employee or if you earned wages in another state, you may file by phone on Monday and Tuesday, as well as any other day of the week.

Weekly Certifications and Maintaining Eligibility

The state requires all benefit recipients to maintain the status they were under when they first applied. That means you must file a claim for benefits each week. The process is sometimes known as “weekly certifications” or “filing a weekly claim.”

You will follow a procedure similar to the one for filing the initial claim. You certify each week by telephone or online. The system will ask you questions in several areas to determine whether you remain eligible and whether you’re looking for work.

The areas the questions will cover include:

  • Whether you are able to work
  • Whether you are available for work
  • Whether you have started or quit a job
  • Whether you earned any income or wages
  • Whether you refused work
  • Whether you were looking for work that week

Failure to file a claim for a week will affect whether you receive benefits. If you aren’t able and available to work or if you aren’t looking for work, you may be denied benefits for the week in which you’ve file a claim.

Work Search Requirements

To satisfy MDES’s mandate that you actively look for a job while you receive benefits, you will have to do more than simply search the want ads. You will have to show you made substantial contacts with someone or some group that could lead to a job opportunity.

  • You must be registered with the WIN Job Center
  • You must make contact with three employers during a benefit week.
  • One of those contacts must lead to a filing an application
  • You must make a detailed record of each contact.

Details should include concrete items that MDES can verify.

  • Who did you contact? What company?
  • What names, addresses, emails, phone numbers did you use?
  • Did you keep copies of any written correspondence (Emails, letters)?

You will have to provide these details each week. MDES will attempt to verify these contacts. If they cannot verify the contacts, the state will deny your eligibility.

Reasons for Denial of Benefits

The MDES will deny benefit awards for several reasons. If you do not earn enough wages in your base period, you will not qualify. You will have to earn enough wages until you can reopen a claim within the year.

An issue regarding the separation from work is the reason most people don’t qualify for benefit payments. If your actions or decision caused the separation from work, you won’t receive benefits.

If you quit to return to school full-time, you may be disqualified from receiving benefits. While wanting to further your education is certainly a good reason for you to quit, it may not be for your employer. Since it was your decision, and not your employers, you will be disqualified.

If your employer fired you for repeated violations of a policy, and you received repeated warnings, the examiner will likely deny your claim. If you were insubordinate, but only once, the MDES may deny your claim depending on the circumstances. In this case, your actions caused the separation from work. The employer gave you opportunities to change your behavior. Nevertheless, you continued to violate the rule. The claims examiner would consider this “misconduct connected to work.”

Other circumstances may disqualify you from receiving benefits in Mississippi.

  • Failed to perform the required job searches
  • Participated in a labor dispute
  • Receiving a pension from your former employer whose wages you counted in your base period wages
  • Getting unemployment benefits from another state
  • Receiving worker’s compensation from Mississippi

Quit and Still Eligible for Benefits

There may be circumstances where you would ordinarily be disqualified for quitting, but you may still get benefits. These circumstances are called a “constructive discharge.” Your employer forced you to work under conditions so severe that you had little choice but to quit your job.

Example: Your employer new a machine you used in the plant was not working properly and was unsafe. You brought it to the employer’s attention regularly, and filed a written report. The malfunctioning machine injured someone on another shift, and nearly inured you. You asked for another assignment. The employer forced you to continue to work on the malfunctioning machine. After several months, you decided to quit.

The claims examiner could determine that you quit with “good cause.”

Fired but Still Eligible

Your employer may dismiss you for violating a rule or policy. However, if you were fired for only violating the policy once, your actions in that instance may not rise to the level of “misconduct connected to the work.” This may depend on the severity of your conduct.

Example: You were late to work once after having worked for the employer for two months. You were late because your tire blew on the interstate. Your employer fired you. The claims examiner may not consider this misconduct.

Your employer will receive notification when you file for unemployment benefits. They may dispute the information you provide in your initial claim. This will affect the claims examiner’s actions. MDES may still deny benefits, and you may have to file an appeal of the determination.

If you are denied benefits, please visit our section on appealing benefits decision in Mississippi.


For further information on filing an unemployment benefits claim in Mississippi:

Read the unemployment insurance handbook

Visit the website of the MDES

Read the Frequently Asked Questions

Learn about the appeals process

Read the rules and regulations for unemployment insurance in MS

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