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What Is Partial Unemployment?

By Christopher Coble, Esq. | Last updated on

Losing a job ain't fun. Even losing a bunch of hours can be stressful. After all, you still have bills to pay, and last I checked your landlord, phone, and cable company don't adjust their rates based on your income.

That's why we have unemployment insurance. But what about underemployment or partial employment insurance? Can you get benefits if you have a job, but it's not allowing you to work or paying you enough? Here's a look.


Most states offer partial unemployment benefits, but their criteria for eligibility for those benefits may vary. Typically, a person requesting partial unemployment must prove:

  • He or she is underemployed or working part time as the only alternative to being laid off or made redundant; or
  • He or she lost their full-time job or even one of two part-time jobs and was only able to find part-time or temporary work may also meet the requirements to receive benefits.

Unemployment eligibility is generally based on income or hours worked, and that remains true for partial unemployment. Workers who voluntarily choose to cut back on hours or work part time, for the most part, are not eligible for partial unemployment benefits, although some states even allow unemployment benefits if an employee quits because of significantly reduced hours.


Calculating how much you can receive from partial unemployment benefits is generally based on your prior income. Most cities and states will first calculate a reasonable weekly salary, subtract what you're making, and pay you the difference. You'll normally be able to receive these benefits until you get more work, you've received the maximum amount allowed by law, or the benefit year ends.

Unemployment benefits can be a little tricky -- contact an experienced employment attorney for help first.

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