How Much Money Do You Have to Make in California to Get Unemployment?


After California workers receive layoff notices, one of the first places they should contact is the California Employment Development Department. The department handles unemployment claims. If California workers earned sufficient wages during the first four of the last five quarters they worked and they also meet other qualifying criteria, they can get weekly unemployment benefits.

Eligibility Requirements

  • To receive unemployment insurance benefits in California, workers generally cannot cause their termination. For example, workers generally cannot lose their jobs because they stole company equipment or struck another employee. If workers are fired from their jobs, they must schedule a telephone interview with a staff member at the California Employment Development Department. The department will determine whether the firing circumstances warrant denial of benefits.

Covered Employment

  • Unemployed workers must work in "covered" employment to receive unemployment insurance benefits. Most workers fall under covered employment. For example, in covered employment, employers are required to pay the state unemployment insurance taxes on wages their employees earn. Self-employment is not considered covered employment in California.


  • In determining benefit eligibility and amount, California calculates the amount of gross wages workers earned during the first four of the last five quarters, also referred to as the base period, to arrive at their weekly unemployment insurance benefits amount. Wages that workers earn during one of the last four quarters must equal at least $1,300. Unemployed workers can also qualify to receive weekly unemployment insurance benefits if the gross wages they earn in their highest quarter during the base period equal at least $900; their total gross wages during the base period must also equal at least 1.25 times their highest quarterly earnings.

Minimums and Maximums

  • As of April 2011, the minimum amount of weekly unemployment insurance benefits in California is $40. The most unemployed workers can receive in their weekly benefits is $450 a week. California uses a benefits table to determine how much unemployed workers receive each week. For example, employees with highest quarterly earnings that range between $900 and $948.99 receive $40 in weekly benefits. Employees with highest quarterly earnings ranging between $11,674 and up receive the state's maximum weekly benefits of $450.

Working Part Time

  • Part-time wages impact weekly benefits checks. For example, part-time jobs that pay workers more than $25 a week but not over $100, causes a workers' unemployment insurance benefits to decrease by the amount of wages they earn above $25. Therefore, employees with $300 in weekly unemployment insurance benefits who receive $50 from part-time jobs will collect adjusted unemployment insurance benefits checks equal to $275. After workers earn more than $100 a week at part-time jobs, their weekly benefits checks are reduced by the amount of wages they earn; they do not receive the $25 exemption. For example, employees with $300 weekly unemployment insurance benefits who earn $200 working part time will have their weekly unemployment insurance benefits checks reduced to $100 while they continue to collect $200 a week working part time.

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