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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Unemployment Compensation (UC): Eligibility for Students Under State and Federal Laws

Julie M. Whittaker
Specialist in Income Security

The recent economic recession and subsequent recovery period has produced one of the most challenging labor markets in recent decades. Many workers lost their jobs during this time period, as others were just entering the market for the first time. As a strategy to cope with the difficult employment situation, many individuals entered school to acquire skills to become more competitive, while others never left, remaining in school to postpone the employment search. However, due to the prolonged nature of the recovery, many students and workers remain jobless and struggle to find work. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) data, in February 2013, approximately 12.0 million workers remained jobless, of which almost 3.5 million individuals aged 16 to 24 were unemployed.

Those that have gone back to school, and have now graduated, still face a competitive job market, and may need to search for work for a prolonged period of time. According to BLS data, in June 2012, there were approximately 3.4 unemployed workers for every available job, and almost 40% of the unemployed have been jobless for more than six months. Because of this economic climate, Congress has been interested in not only job creation and how students are coping with the competitive job market, but whether they are receiving income support during times of unemployment in order to cope.

Unemployment Compensation (UC) is a joint federal-state program that provides income support payments to eligible workers who lose their jobs through no fault of their own. Federal law sets out broad guidelines with regard to how the UC program operates and how it should be administered. State laws establish eligibility criteria for who qualifies for the program. In the case of a student who becomes unemployed, eligibility would depend on how their respective state treats students within the UC system.

Most states disqualify students from UC benefits while they are in school or disqualify individuals from UC benefits if they leave work to attend school. This is typically due to the presumption that students would be unavailable for work during the time that they are in school. However, exceptions and variations exist from state to state. Many workers who lost their jobs and remain in school may be eligible for UC benefits depending on their circumstances and how their respective states treat students.

This report describes these state variations in further detail and how states consider students within the framework of their own unique UC programs.

Date of Report: April 1, 2013
Number of Pages: 12
Order Number: R42707
Price: $29.95

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