What Is New York State's Unemployment Base Period?


Many of the terms used by the New York state unemployment insurance program can be confusing to first-time claimants. One of the most used terms is “base period,” a period of time the state reviews your previous wages. Your base period wages help the state to determine your unemployment eligibility and then determine your compensation amounts. New York unemployment features two types of base periods, and you can request to switch them by submitting a form.

Purpose of Base Period

Your base period is a factor in your New York state unemployment eligibility and determining your compensation. Since unemployment benefits are merit-based, the New York State Department of Labor (NYSDOL) wants to review your previous wages during the application process. By using the base period, the state can narrow down the time period it uses and offer a uniform time period for each claimant.

Basic Base Period

The basic base period is the default used by the NYSDOL. It’s the first four of the last five full calendar quarters before you filed your initial unemployment claim. Calendar quarters run January through March, April through June, July through September and October through December. For example, if you filed your claim on April 16, 2011, your last full calendar quarter (or alternate quarter) was January through March 2011. That makes your base period January 2010 through December 2010.

Alternate Base Period

Some unemployment claimants wouldn’t qualify for benefits based on the basic base period. If that’s the case, the NYSDOL also has an alternate base period qualification. The alternate base period is just the last four full calendar quarters before you filed your initial claim with no lag period. For example, if you filed your claim on April 16, 2011, your alternate base period would be April 2010 through March 2011.

How to Request Alternate

If you think you would qualify for benefits using the alternate base period or your compensation would be higher using it, you can request that the NYSDOL switch to it. You fill out the Request for Alternate Base Period form found in the back of the claimant handbook (see Resources). Fill out the form and return it as soon as possible because it must be in by 10 days from the date on your Monetary Determination form.

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