U.S. Unemployment Terminology


The person filing a claim to collect government benefits in the form unemployment insurance benefits. The claimant is responsible for meeting eligibility requirements necessary to sustain a valid claim.

Claim Week

A seven-day time period from Sunday through Saturday.

Claim Week Year

The 52-week period during which you can collect benefits on your unemployment insurance claim. In most states, your claim year begins the Sunday of the week you submit your initial application.

Gross Wages Earnings Quarter

Wages earned, before taxes, during a three month period of the 12 or 18 month base period.

Earnings Quarter

Any one of these three-month time periods during a year:

Maximum Benefit Amount

The total amount of unemployment insurance benefits you may receive during your claim year (also known as benefit year in some states), if you comply with all of the rules and claim enough weeks to reach this amount.

Weekly Benefit Amount

The amount of weekly benefits an individual is eligible to receive. The maximum and minimum amounts are based on state law, and may change each year.

Non-payable Waiting Week

Most states require a waiting week, which is the first week, beginning on the Sunday after the date you submit your initial application for unemployment insurance benefits and are deemed eligible.

Traditional Base Periods

The first four of the last five completed calendar quarters before the week you applied for benefits. For more information on base periods, click here.

Alternate Base Periods

Alternate base period uses the last four completed calendar quarters before the week you applied for benefits. You must have worked a minimum number of hours in covered employment in the alternate base year and still meet all of the other eligibility requirements to qualify for unemployment insurance benefits. (This may vary from state to state, and some states do not recognize any forms of Alternate Base Periods)

Unemployment Benefits

The monies you are eligible to collect in benefits from unemployment insurance taxes paid by employers and employees. In many states only employers pay unemployment insurance taxes. In some, both employer and employee contribute to the unemployment insurance trust fund.

Unemployment Application

Claimants submat applications to collect unemployment insurance benefits with valid information required to show eligibility. Most states have two ways to submit unemployment applications--online, through the state’s secure website, and by phone through an automated system.