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North Carolina Unemployment – Know Your Rights

Last Verified: April 2017

North Carolina UC (Unemployment Compensation) benefits provide temporary compensation to individuals who fulfill all the eligibility requirements of North Carolina Law. The North Carolina Department of Employment Security (DES) administers the unemployment insurance program in accordance with the Federal guidelines.


To qualify to receive unemployment benefits, you must have earned enough wages from an employer covered by the state’s unemployment insurance law. The DES will look at wages over a 12-month period prior to your filing a claim. Additionally:

  • You must be unemployed through no fault of your own.
  • You must be able and available to work
  • You must register with NCWorks.
  • You must be a US citizen or legally authorized to work in the US

Eligibility Requirements Explained

Unemployed Through No Fault of Your Own

Your actions or decisions cannot be the cause of your separation from work. An action that causes your dismissal or a decision to quit without good cause will often result in a denial of benefits.

Able and Available

You must be physically and mentally able to work when you file your initial claim. You must also be available to accept an offer of suitable employment. “Suitable employment” is a job you’ve performed or are trained to do that pays a salary commiserate with the job duties.

Legally Authorized to Work

You must be a US citizen or be able to prove you were authorized to work in the US by the government. You should be able to show a visa or alien registration card.

Wage Earning Requirements and the Base Period

The DES will look at your wages over a period of months prior to your filing a claim for benefits called the base period. The base period is the first four of the last five quarters prior to your filing the claim.

unemployment base period
This chart shows the base period.

You will qualify if your wages meet the following conditions:

You earn six times your “average weekly wage” (how much you made a week on average during your base period) in at least two quarters during the base period.

You made at least $780 in one of the two last quarters of your base period.

The DES will mail a Wage Transcript and Monetary Statement after determining your base period wages. This will tell you whether you meet the wage requirement. It is not a confirmation that you will be receiving benefits.

If you notice an error in your statement, you should contact the DES immediately. You can request a redetermination of your wages. However, you should be able to support your claim with evidence.

Calculating Your Benefit Payments

The DES takes the total wages in the last two quarters in your base period and divides that number by 52 to determine your weekly benefit amount (WBA).

The maximum WBA in NC is currently $350. The minimum amount is $15. If the above calculation is below $15, you will not be eligible for benefits.

The DES offers a benefits estimator at their website. You’ll need your social security number to use it.

Extended Benefits

You are allowed a maximum of 20 weeks of benefits. In times of high unemployment, the state and federal government each have programs to extend the maximum weeks. Currently, neither the state nor federal government have authorized any extended benefits.

How to apply

You may file for unemployment benefits in North Carolina online or by phone. If you wish to file by phone, you can call 1-877-841-9617 any day of the week. You may file online here.

Before you begin the application process, make sure:

  • You should collect the name and address of the employer you last worked for.
  • The dates of your most recent employment need to be reported. You can do it easily by collecting W2s and pay stubs.
  • Be prepared to show and prove that your unemployment is not your fault.
  • Do not forget to keep any written notification of your termination, layoff, or severance that you might have received.

If you are using the federal government or military as a base period employer, you will have to provide the proper separation forms when you apply.

Weekly Certification and Maintaining Eligibility

The DES wants benefit recipients to maintain eligibility status during the time they are receiving benefits, especially that they are available to work and are looking for work. In order to monitor this, the state requires benefit recipients to certify their claim each week, also called filing a weekly claim.

You may certify online or by telephone at 888-372-3453. If you use the telephone to certify, you have certain days you call to certify. If your SSN ends in an odd number, call on Monday. If it ends in an even number, call on Tuesday. The rest of the week is open to all. Those who call soonest receive their benefits soonest.

When you certify, you will receive several questions meant to determine whether you have maintained eligibility for that week. The DES wants to know:

  • Whether you are able and available to work
  • Whether you have started or quit a job
  • Whether you have earned wages or income that you are required to report
  • Whether you have refused an offer of suitable employment
  • Whether you are making a good faith effort to find work

If you have earned wages, you will have to report your earnings when you certify. You report your wages during the week you earned those wages, not during the week in which you received them.

Part-time Work and Benefits

You may work part-time and still collect benefits. When the DES examines your base period wages, it will use your high quarter wages to determine an “earnings allowance.” You will receive the figure on your wage statement. Once source claims the earnings allowance is determined by dividing your total high quarter wages by 13.
If you earn more than your earnings allowance, the state will deduct from your WBA on a dollar-for-dollar basis. You will keep the wages you earned, but your benefit payment will be reduced. If you earn more than your WBA, you will not receive a payment that week.

Work Search Requirement

The state requires that benefit recipients make a good faith effort to find work while receiving benefits. For North Carolina residents, a “good faith effort” is making five job verifiable contacts per week.
You will have already registered with NCWorks, the state’s employment assistance center. However, simply searching their database may not be enough to satisfy the “good faith effort” requirement.
You must keep track of your contacts. The DES can perform an audit of your job search efforts at any time. The DES may stop benefits if you are not looking for work. If you refuse a job offer, you should inform the DES by calling 888-737-0259. You may lose benefits if you don’t.

Reasons for Denial of Benefits

If you do not meet the wage requirements, the DES examiner will deny your claim; you will not qualify for benefits. You may meet the wage requirement and still face a denial of benefits because of issues related to your separation from work.

Separation Issues

If your actions or decisions cause your separation from work, the DES will deny benefits.
If you quit without a good cause connected to your work, the state may deny benefits. For example, if you quit because you wanted to go back to school full-time, this may be a “good” cause, but it is not a cause connected to work. You quit for personal reasons.
The DES will deny benefits for those discharged from employment because of misconduct connected to the work. “Misconduct” is any action or inaction that shows a disregard for the employer’s interests. Repeated violations of employer policies or generally accepted business practices (habitually absent without a good cause) are simple examples of misconduct.

Quit and Still Eligible

Your employer may have done something or failed to do something to force you to quit. If your employer, for example, forced you to work in unsafe conditions, you may be eligible for benefits even though it was your decision to quit. You will have to show you made a good faith effort to work out the situation and the circumstances did in fact exist when you decided to quit.

Fired and Still Eligible

You may be eligible for benefits even though your action caused your dismissal. The DES may not consider your action to be “misconduct.” A one-time showing of poor judgement or an inability to perform your duties should not cause a denial of benefits.

Other Issues

The DES can deny benefit claims for reasons not connected to monetary eligibility or separation from work. Failing to look for work or refusal to accept an offer of suitable employment are reasons for denying benefits.

What Happens When the DES Denies Benefits

You have the right to appeal any determination the DES makes regarding your benefits. The DES will mail you a Notice of Determination regarding the denial of benefits. The notice will tell you how long you have to file your appeal, in writing, with the DES’ Appeals Section. For more information on unemployment appeals, read our page on NC appeals.


If you are looking for further information, you can visit the official website of North Carolina Department of Employment Security.

You will also want to read the state’s Unemployment Insurance Overview.

For specific questions or special problems, it may be best to call and get information from the source.

NCESC Phone number


DES mailing address

P.O. Box 25903
Raleigh, NC 27611-5903

DES central office

700 Wade Avenue
Raleigh, NC 27605

Weekly certification phone number


Appeals Inquiry






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