The Department of Labor and Workforce Development (LWD) handles unemployment claims in New Jersey. With the ability to apply online or by telephone, New Jersey makes it extremely simple to receive benefits when you find yourself out of work.
Eligibility for Unemployment in NJ
In order to qualify for unemployment benefits in New Jersey, you must earn enough wages or worked enough hours over a 12-month period. The wages earned and hours worked must come from an employer covered by the state’s unemployment law. Additionally:
- You must have lost your job through no fault of your own
- You must be able and available to accept offers of suitable employment
- You must be a US citizen or legally authorized to work in the US
You must maintain your eligibility status if the state awards benefits as well as show that you’re looking for work.
Eligibility Requirements Explained
Able and Available
You must be physically and mentally able to work when you file your claim. You must be available to accept an offer of suitable employment. “Suitable employment” is work similar to what you’ve done previously at a salary similar to what you have earned. The longer you are out of work, the less important job suitability becomes. You may be expected to accept work that doesn’t fit the definition.
Lost Job Through No Fault of Your Own
Your actions or decisions cannot be the cause of your separation from work. If you quit of your own decision, or were dismissed because of something you did, you may not be eligible.
You must be a US citizen to be eligible. If you aren’t a citizen, you must be able to prove the government has given you authorization to work (e.g alien registration card).
Wage Requirements and the Base Period
To qualify to receive benefits, you must have worked for an employer covered by NJ unemployment laws (“covered employer”). The LWD examiner will look at your wages from such employers over a 12-month period called “the base period.” The base period is the first four of the last five quarters prior to your filing a claim.
The state requires you have worked a number of weeks where you earned a minimum of $168. For claims filed in 2017, you must have worked for a covered employer for at least 20 base weeks during the base period, or earned at least $8,400 during the period.
If you do not qualify using the standard base period calculations, the LWD will look at your wages over either:
- The last four quarters before you file your claim, or
- The last three quarters plus the weeks just before filing
You will receive a Notice of Claimant Benefit Determination informing you whether you qualify and if so, how much you’ll get each week, If you do not meet the wage requirements, you may request a re-determination of your wages. You should be able to support your request with evidence.
Calculating Your Benefit Amount
The LWD uses your base period wages to calculate your weekly benefit amount (WBA). The LWD uses the wages to find a weekly benefit rate and a maximum claim benefit amount.
Weekly Benefit Rate
The weekly benefit rate is 60% of your average weekly wage during your base period. The rate cannot be higher than the maximum WBA the state will pay, which is $677 currently.
Max Claim Benefit Amount
The maximum claim benefit amount is the most unemployment you can collect in one year. Find this by taking your base weeks (max: 26) and multiplying that times your weekly benefit rate. If you have 20 weeks where you earned at least $167 during the base period, you have 20 base weeks.
If the math sounds complicated, you can use the chart provided by the LWD to estimate your WBA and max benefit amount.
You may claim dependents when you file a claim. Claiming dependents will allow you to increase your actual WBA as long as claiming dependents doesn’t cause the amount to go over the maximum WBA.
Dependents can be an unemployed spouse or partner, unemployed and unmarried child under age 19, or an unemployed child under age 22 if the child is still in school. You must have been substantially responsible for the financial care for the dependents, similar to claiming dependents at tax time.
One dependent adds an additional 7%. The next two dependents you claim will add 4% per dependent. You cannot claim more than three dependents.
You will have to go through a verification process to claim dependents. You will have to complete an application, which may be found online (inside the pages of the unemployment handbook).
During times of significant unemployment in NJ, the LWD may allow for additional weeks of benefits beyond the maximum 26 weeks. The federal government may also provide for additional unemployment insurance compensation through legislative action. Currently, there are no extended benefits available.
How to apply
You can file a claim online at the NJsuccess website. This site is only used to file new claims or to certify your weekly benefits. They do not answer questions about claims or provide information about unemployment insurance.
You must complete the entire application in one sitting. If your computer is idle for more than 30 minutes or you exit before you finish, all of your information will be lost and you will have to start over.
You must meet certain criteria to use the online claim system.
- All of your work was in New Jersey in the past 18 months
- You did not work for the federal government in the past 18 months
- You did not serve in the military in the past 18 months
- You did not work as a maritime employee in the past 18 months
- You do not reside outside the United States
How to apply by telephone
New Jersey has 3 Reemployment Call Centers in New Jersey that you can call in order to file a claim. The operating hours for these offices are 8:30AM-6:00PM, Monday through Friday including holidays.
Because of the high volume of calls the Reemployment Call Centers receive, you must call during a designated time to file your claim. This time is based on your Social Security Number. Here is the current schedule of when you can call based on the last digit in your SSN:
- Mondays if your SSN ends in an odd number
- Tuesdays if your SSN ends in an even number
- Wednesday through Friday, anyone may call
The phone number you call to file will depend on the One-Stop Career Center that services your area. Below are the locations and corresponding phone numbers.
- North New Jersey – Call the Union City center at 201-601-4100
- Central New Jersey – Call the Freehold center at 732-761-2020
- South New Jersey – Call the Vineland center at 856-507-2340
For those who worked in New Jersey but live in another state, you must call (888) 795-6672.
Applying online is the fastest way to get your claim processed. However, those employed by the Federal Government or the military must file by phone.
What you need to apply
Before you begin the application process, make sure you have the following available:
- Your Social Security Number
- If you are not a U.S citizen, your Alien Registration information (type, number, country of origin, employment authorization card, permanent resident card, and name)
- Information for all of your employers in the last year and a half (name, address, telephone number, dates worked, and reason for leaving)
- Driver’s license or state ID card
Currently, NJ law requires “identity proofing” in an effort to combat fraud. You will receive a series of multiple choice questions based on your background. You must participate to receive benefits.
If you do not answer the questions correctly, the LWD will ask you to report to a claims center to participate in an interview and show proof of identity.
Weekly Certifications and Maintaining Eligibility
The LWD requires that you maintain your initial eligibility status while you receive benefits. So then, you must certify that status weekly (or biweekly). Once you certify, you can receive your WBA payment.
If you choose to certify each week, you will certify online. If you certify by telephone, you will do it every two weeks.
During the process, you will answer several questions meant to determine whether you maintain eligibility, are looking for work. The questions will cover these topics generally:
- Are you looking for work?
- Are you able and available to work?
- Have you started or quit a job?
- Have you earned any wages or received income?
- Have you refused an offer of employment?
If you have earned wages during the benefit week(s), you must report those wages. Don’t wait until you receive the paycheck.
You can certify online:
- M-F between 7AM and 6PM
- Saturday between 8AM and 3PM
- Sunday between 8AM and 5PM
You can certify by telephone between 8AM and 6PM M-F including holidays.
Part-time Work and Receiving Benefits
You can work part-time and still receive benefits, though the wages you earn will reduce your WBA for that week in which you earned benefits. The LWD refers to such benefits as partial benefits.
You cannot work more than 80% of your usual work hours and still receive partial benefits.
You may earn up to 20% of your WBA before the state starts deducting from your WBA. If you earn more than 20% of your WBA during a week, the state will make dollar-for-dollar deductions from your WBA.
The Work Search Requirement
The state requires that benefit recipients make a good faith effort to find work while receiving benefits. The LWD considers contacting at least three employers each week satisfies the requirement.
The LWD at any time may request that you produce a record of your job search efforts. If you fail to look for work, the LWD may not certify your claim and stop benefit payments.
Some workers are exempt from the work search requirement. Workers who have a specific return date from a lay off, who are part of a union shop or an LWD certified training program may be exempt.
The LWD may request that you participate in career assistance or training programs. Some of these programs may be a condition of your receiving benefits, so it is always in your interest to respond to communications from the department.
Reasons for Denials of Benefits
If you do not meet the base period earning requirements, you will not qualify for benefits. You will receive a notice regarding the determination. You may request a re-determination or file an appeal.
Even if you qualify with base period earnings, the state may still deny benefits. You may have some issue regarding your separation from work that will cause the denial.
If you quit work without a good cause connected to your work, the examiner may deny your claim. For example, if you quit to return to school full-time, you have quit work for a personal reason and you will not be eligible.
If you are dismissed for misconduct, the examiner may deny your claim. The state defines “misconduct” generally as actions that show a disregard for your employer’s interests. Being constantly late to work without calling in is an obvious example.
There are some things you must do to remain eligible that aren’t connected to your previous employment. Failing to do this things may cause you to lose your benefits. Failing to look for work, failing to accept a reasonable offer for work or failing to respond to LWD inquiries may cause you to lose benefits.
Quit and Still Eligible
If your employer did something or failed to do something to cause you to quit work, you may still be eligible even though you decided to quit. Your employer may have transferred you to a location where it is unreasonable to expect you to travel to. You have to show that you tried to work things out with your employer before quitting no matter the circumstances to be eligible in these situations.
Fired and Still Eligible
While your employer may dismiss you for many causes, if the cause is not “misconduct” according to unemployment law, you may still be eligible for benefits. If your employer fires you because they didn’t think you could do the job, and you can show you made every effort to do the job, that is not misconduct.
What Happens When the LWD Denies Your Claim
After applying for your benefits, you will receive a determination in the mail. If you disagree with the ruling, you have the right to appeal the decision. You must appeal within 7 calendar days of receiving the determination or the ruling will be final. Complete instructions will be printed on your determination letter, but you must mail your appeal to:
New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development
PO Box 907
Trenton, NJ 08625-0907
In your appeal letter, you must include your name, SSN, telephone number, and address. You must also give a reason for your appeal. If you are filing your appeal late, you must also include the reason for filing late.
Also be sure to read our section on the New Jersey unemployment benefits appeals process here.
Department of Labor and Workforce Development
File new claims or certify online
File new claims or certify by phone
All necessary forms
Division of Unemployment Insurance
Customer Service Office
PO Box 058
Trenton, NJ 08625-0058
Fax: (609) 633-2884