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How to Get Unemployment Benefits in South Dakota

Last Verified: July 2017

Like many state governments, the South Dakota legislature is focused on cutting taxes for employers. Fortunately for the state’s displaced workers, the legislature raised the maximum weekly unemployment payout in 2017. Those in need of the services of the Department of Labor’s Unemployment Insurance division can familiarize themselves with the procedure to get the maximum benefits they’re due.


To be qualify for unemployment, you must have worked for an employer covered by the state’s unemployment insurance laws (a “covered employer”). You must also have earned a minimum amount during a 12-month period while working for a covered employer (or employers). If you meet these qualifications, you must also have:

  • Lost your job through no fault of your own
  • Be able and available to go back to work
  • Be authorized to work in the US

You’ll have to register with the re-employment service in your state if you currently reside outside South Dakota. You will be automatically registered with SDWorks if you live in the state.

Eligibility Requirements Explained

Lost Your Job Through No Fault of Your Own

If you were laid off, your plant closed or moved away, you may be eligible for benefits. If you quit or your employer let you go because of some rule violation, you may not be eligible.

Able and Available

You must be mentally and physically able to work when you file your claim. You must also be available to accept an offer of suitable employment. “Suitable employment” is work you’re trained to do at a salary similar to what you’ve received in the past.

Legally Authorized

You must be a US citizen or be able to show proof you’re authorized to work in the US. In rare cases, H1-B visa holders may be eligible if their employer laid them off with a specific return date.

Monetary Qualification and the Base Period

To meet the state’s monetary qualification, you have to have earned sufficient wages 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 for benefits.

unemployment base period
This chart shows the base period.

You must have earned at least $728 in at least one quarter of your base period. This amount is called your “high quarter wages.” This will be used to calculate your weekly benefit amount (WBA) as well.

Learn more about eligibility from the fact sheet.

Calculating Your Benefit Amount

Your WBA will equal roughly 1/26 of your high quarter wages. Your WBA cannot exceed the maximum set by the legislature. The current maximum is $390. The most you can receive during a year is either 1/3 your total base period wages or 26 times your WBA (whichever is lower).

You will receive a monetary determination in the mail informing you of your potential WBA, total benefit amount and the calculations to arrive at those figures. You may ask for a redetermination if you can show that the UI division’s examiners made an error.

Duration of Benefits

The maximum number of weeks you can receive benefits is 26 weeks. The number of weeks you’ll receive is based on your base period wages.

During times of high unemployment, claimants may receive benefits for more than the maximum number of weeks. The government must authorize such extended benefits via legislation. No such program currently exists.

How to Apply for Benefits

You can file online at the SD UI website or by calling the claims center during regular business hours.

You should file as soon as you are unemployed. You won’t be eligible until you are actually out of work; however, you can have your application information ready on the day you’re let go. You need to have:

  • Social Security Number
  • Driver’s license number or other state identification number
  • Your employment history for the last 18 months, including:
    • Each employer’s name, address and phone number
    • Dates of employment (month and year)
    • Pay rate
    • Reason you are no longer working for the employer
  • The name and local number of your union hall, if you obtain work through the union.
  • Your Alien Registration Number if you are not a U.S. Citizen.
  • Your SF-8 and SF-50 forms if you are a federal employee.
  • Your DD214 if you served in the military.
  • If you worked for Non-South Dakota employers you must have an accurate mailing address and telephone number for them.

The claims center telephone number is 605.626.3179. Speech and hearing impaired applicants can call the Relay Service of South Dakota at 800.877.1113.

Read more about filing a claim in this handbook.

Weekly Certifications and Maintaining Eligibility

To receive payment, you must file a continuing claim each week. The state requires you do this so that it can determine whether you are maintaining your eligibility status while you receive benefits.

You can file a weekly claim either online or by telephone (605.626.3212). You’ll have to show that you are eligible by answering several questions. The state will want to know whether:

  • You are looking for work
  • You are able and available to work
  • You started or quit a new job
  • You refused a job offer
  • You earned any wages

If you refused a job or you earned wages, you must report this to the SD UI. You have to report wages during the week you earned them, not when you were paid. Failure to report such information could lead to the state stopping your benefit payments or fraud charges.

Part-time Work and Receiving Benefits

You may file a claim for partial unemployment if your employer reduced your work hours from full-time to part-time. You may also work part-time while receiving benefits if you find work. However, the state will reduce your WBA accordingly.

You can earn up to $25 without deductions. The state will deduct 75% of your earnings over $25.

Any week in which you work full-time, even if the wages don’t exceed your WBA, you won’t get benefits. You will be considered fully employed if you work full-time. If you have a side gig – self-employment – you have to report hours and wages from that work as well.

Work Search Requirements

The SD UI places importance on your looking for work while you are receiving benefits. You must make at least two job contacts each week. This is more than simply searching for work on the Internet. The division may check on your work search progress at any time.

When you file your weekly certification you will be asked to provide the following information regarding your job contacts:

  • Name of business contacted
  • Date the contact was made
  • Contact information for the business, including phone number, address of the business, email, and web link if applicable
  • Title of the position applied for
  • Name of the hiring authority you contacted at the business
  • Method of contact (in-person, online, etc.)

You do not have to look for work if:

  • You have a definite recall date to return to full-time work with an employer that paid 50 percent or more of your base period wages and, due to weather-related seasonal factors, work is not available in your primary base-period occupation and other suitable work is not available, or
  • You are a member in good standing with a referring union through which you normally obtain employment, or
  • You will be recalled to full-time work within 10 consecutive weeks with an employer.

Failure to make a good faith effort to find a job could result in the division stopping your benefit payments.

Reasons for Denial of Benefits

If you do not meet the monetary eligibility requirements, the state will deny your claim for benefits. If you do meet the requirement, the state may deny your claim based on issues related to your separation from work. If your claim is successful, the state may suspend benefits or deny a weekly claim because you failed to remain eligible.

Separation Issues

The examiner will look at the circumstances of how your employment ended. If you quit, the examiner will check to see whether you quit with good cause. If not, they will deny your claim. If you were discharged, they will look for evidence of misconduct. If the examiner believes such evidence exists, they will deny benefits.


A “good cause” to quit is one that shows something your employer did or failed to do left you with no other possible course of action but to quit. If your employer failed to pay you for an unreasonable period, that may be a good cause to quit. If your employer forced you to work in unsafe conditions, you may be eligible to receive benefits in spite of quitting work.

You will have to show that you made a reasonable, good faith effort to keep your job. Did you speak with your supervisor or Human Resources officer about the situation? Did you try repeatedly to remedy the situation before quitting?


Misconduct is defined as behavior that shows a disregard for your employer’s interests. For example, coming to work late frequently in spite of warnings from your boss will show the claims examiner that you disregarded your employer’s authority and interests. However, if you were late to work because of a serious illness and then your boss fired you soon after, your conduct may not rise to the level of misconduct in that case.

The decision whether to deny benefits based on misconduct is fact-dependent in some cases. You will have to show, for example, that the action that got you fired was a simple mistake in judgement or a situation beyond your control. Your boss may be able to fire you for many reasons; however, those reasons may not be misconduct as defined by unemployment law.

In determining whether you caused your separation from work, the examiner will contact your former employer for their side of the story. They may accept the employer’s word in many cases. You may have to argue your case on appeal.

Other Issues

The state may place a stop on your claim if you have not complied with some requirement, like failing to report starting a new job. They will make a determination whether you will continue to receive benefits.

What Happens When the State Denies a Claim

The SD UI will mail a notice of eligibility determination after you file a claim. This may take two weeks or more. It will inform you of whether the state has approved your claim. If the state denies your claim, you may appeal the decision. You will have a limited time in which to request an appeal, so file your request as soon as possible. The  notice will include instructions on how to file an appeal.

You can learn more about the appeals process on the South Dakota page in the appeals section.



Unemployment Insurance Division — Benefits
South Dakota Department of Labor and Regulation
P.O. Box 4730
Aberdeen, SD  57402-4730
Phone:  605.626.2452
Fax:  605.626.3172

You can find a contact form here.

An overview of the entire process, from filing a claim to appeals, is in the claimant handbook.