Pennsylvania unemployment benefits guide

profile Erin Bruehl  |  October 6, 2021

You worked hard at your job, and your bosses were pleased with your work. But one day, those bosses told you to stop coming. Your services were no longer required, and you'd no longer get the paycheck you need. What happens next?

If you live in Pennsylvania, unemployment benefits could help you stay afloat until you find a new job that's right for you.

Are You Eligible for Benefits?

Your employer decided to eliminate your position and put you out of work. But that person doesn't have control over your unemployment benefits in PA. The Office of Unemployment Compensation decides.

Eligibility in Pennsylvania is based on three items.

  • Finances: Did you earn money in a qualified job? If you made just a few dollars as a freelancer, you likely don’t meet money thresholds set by the government. But if you had a regular job and got paid an amount typical for that role, you probably do qualify. The team will assess that carefully in your application.
  • Job loss: Did you lose your job through no fault of your own? If you walked away from work that your employer still wanted you to do, you might not be eligible. And if you made a catastrophic decision (such as opting to steal from your boss), you could also lose eligibility.
  • Participation: Are you still looking for work and willing to accept suitable positions? You must register for work and prove that you're on the hunt, if asked. Otherwise, your payments will cease.

The Office of Unemployment Compensation is filled with experts who understand the ins and outs of the rules and regulations in Pennsylvania. You're not required to make sense of every guideline before you apply.

If you're not sure if you'll be approved, it's best to apply anyway. You're not charged for the paperwork, and you just might find out that you can get the help you need.

How to File for Unemployment Benefits in PA

An electronic system makes applying for help very easy. But the process can be time-consuming, so be prepared to set aside an afternoon to get the work done.

Visit the Online Unemployment Compensation Services page, and you'll find an application form. Be prepared to give information about your:

  • Identity. Your Social Security number, driver's license number, address, birthdate, and other similar information helps officials verify that you are who you say you are.
  • Employers. You'll give the name, address, phone number, and other contact information of the company where you worked last.
  • Income. You'll give information on your finances during the last year. The sums are split into quarters, and you put in a total salary for each quarter. It may sound intimidating, but with a little math help, you'll complete this step.
  • Payment options. The Office of Unemployment Compensation must know how you'd like your monthly money.

This online application is available 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. If you'd rather complete an application via telephone, call 1-888-313-7284.

After the team reviews your application, watch your mailbox. You'll get a letter within about 7 to 10 business days. Keep this letter, as it will contain a 4-digit PIN number. You'll need that PIN to log into your online account and stay in touch with the Office of Unemployment Compensation.

You'll also get a letter that tells you just how big your unemployment checks will be. Your weekly benefit rate is roughly based on the money you made within the last year. The team also bases your amount on the highest wages you took home in a quarter, whether you have dependents, and more.

How to Find a New Job

To keep your PA unemployment benefits, you must actively look for a new job. If you're like most Pennsylvanians, this won't be difficult.

Researchers say most unemployed Pennsylvanians are within their prime earning years, and most people who are unemployed have a long work history. If you've lost your job, you're clearly in good company.

And plenty of people are searching for new positions right now. In 2020, with the pandemic in full swing, unemployment in Pennsylvania hit 16.1%.

But officials in the state don't want you to stay out of work for months or years. They want you to get back up on your feet and find a new position. In fact, you're required to prove that you're looking for a new job to keep your benefits.

Start by registering with Pennsylvania Career Link. Create an account, and use the system to search for open jobs, apprenticeships, and career trainings. This website could be your gateway to a new and lucrative new job.

Keep track of each conversation you have about a new job, including:

  • Email messages you write and receive.
  • Interviews you attend.
  • Letters you send and receive.
  • Phone calls you make and take.

Take notes about the dates and times, and track whom you talked to and how long the conversation lasted. Officials may not ask for this detailed data. But if they do, you’ll have it ready to go.

Follow These Steps to Keep Checks Coming

In a perfect world, you'll get regular payments to keep you afloat, and they should arrive every other week. But you must complete a few tasks to ensure that you never miss out on the money you're owed.

To keep your benefits, you must:

  • Request them. Log into your account at least once every other week. Certify that you're still eligible for compensation, and promise that you're still looking for work. If you've made any money during this time, highlight that too. You won't get paid unless you ask for your funds.
  • Answer questions. If the Office of Unemployment Compensation has a question about your forms, your payments could get delayed or cancelled altogether. Be available and helpful when needed.
  • Look for work. It's critical that you look for a new position while you're getting checks.

The Office of Unemployment Compensation will deliver your money via direct deposit into a debit card they send you. But you can choose to deliver funds to your own bank instead. If you sign up to receive your payments to your Current premium account (using your account and routing number), you’ll receive your money up to two days faster than with a traditional bank.

We accept direct deposits just like traditionalany other banks. But unlike our competitors, we don't have processing wait times for funds. You'll never see "pending" on your PA unemployment payments if you’re a Current premium member. As soon as we receive the information, we credit your account.

Find out more about how we can help you get your money and manage it better. Download our app and create an account in just two minutes.


Your Right to Unemployment Compensation. (August 2014). Pennsylvania Legal Aid Network.

Am I Eligible for UC? Office of Unemployment Compensation.

How to File. Office of Unemployment Compensation.

What to Expect After Filing. Office of Unemployment Compensation.

Weekly Benefit Rate. Office of Unemployment Compensation.

A Profile of Pennsylvania's Unemployed People. (September 2010). Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry.

PA Unemployment Rate Drops to 10.3 Percent, Hospitality and Leisure Still Suffering. (September 2020). WHYY.

Pennsylvania Unemployment Insurance.

Payment of Benefits. Office of Unemployment Compensation.

File a Biweekly Claim or Weekly Certification. Office of Unemployment Compensation.

Unemployment Benefits Guide. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Current is a financial technology company, not a bank. Banking services provided by Choice Financial Group, Member FDIC.

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