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How your unemployment benefits are determined

Learn more about how your Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits are calculated.

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Unemployment benefits determination calculator

If you are eligible to receive Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits, you will receive a weekly benefit amount of approximately 50% of your average weekly wage, up to the maximum set by law. As of October 2, 2022, the maximum weekly benefit amount is $1015 per week.

This calculator helps you estimate your benefits. It is only advisory. You will be notified of your outcome and benefit determination 3-4 weeks after you apply. 

For more details on how your unemployment benefits are determined, see the information in the sections below.

Understanding your base period and benefit year

The amount of UI benefits you may be eligible to receive is determined by wages paid to you during either your primary or alternate base period. The base period is defined by Massachusetts law.

Primary base period

The primary base period is the last 4 completed calendar quarters prior to the effective date of your claim (typically the Sunday of the week that you filed your claim). For most claimants, the primary base period is used to calculate your maximum benefit credit, which is the total amount of benefits you are eligible to receive.

Alternate base period

The alternate base period is the last 3 completed calendar quarters and the period of time between the last completed quarter and the effective date of your claim. The alternate base period can only be used if:

  • You don't meet the minimum eligibility requirements using the primary base period
  • Using the alternate base period will increase your maximum benefit credit by 10% or more

How your base period and benefit year are determined

Massachusetts employers are required to report wage information to the Department of Unemployment Assistance (DUA) on a quarterly basis. This wage information is used to determine whether you have earned enough wages to qualify for unemployment benefits.

If you disagree with the wages reported by your employer

If you disagree with the wages reported on your Monetary Determination notice, you can provide proof of the wage amounts you are disputing by completing and returning the Wage and Employer Correction sheet that was mailed to you with your notice. DUA will review the information and make any necessary adjustments.

If it is determined that you have not earned enough wages under either the primary or the alternate base period, you have the right to file an appeal and present additional supporting documents at a hearing.

Your benefit year

Once your claim is established, it will remain open for 1 year (52 weeks). This period of time is called your benefit year. 

Your maximum benefit credit (the total amount of benefits you are eligible to receive) is available to you for the duration of your benefit year or until you have exhausted your maximum benefit credit. Once your benefit year expires, any unpaid benefits will no longer be available to you.

Additional Resources

Calculating your weekly benefit amount

If you are eligible to receive UI benefits, you will receive a weekly benefit amount of approximately 50% of your average weekly wage, up to the maximum set by law. As of October 2, 2022, the maximum weekly benefit amount is $1015 per week. Follow the steps below to calculate the amount of unemployment benefits you may be eligible to receive each week.

Step 1: List your total wages in the last 4 quarters in which you worked.

Quarter 1

Quarter 2

Quarter 3

Quarter 4

$7,800

$7,800

$8,840

$10,000

 Step 2: Add the top two highest quarters of wages.

Quarter 1

Quarter 2

Quarter 3

Quarter 4

$7,800

$7,800

$8,840

$10,000

In this example, Quarter 3 and Quarter 4 were the highest quarters:

$8,840 + 10,000 = $18,840

Note: If you worked 2 or fewer quarters, use the highest quarter of wages.

Step 3: Divide the sum of the two highest quarters from Step 2 by 30 (the number of weeks in the combined quarters)

$18,840 ÷ 26 = $724.61

In this example, $724.61 is your average weekly wage.

Note: If you worked 2 or fewer quarters, divide the highest quarter by 13 weeks to determine your average weekly wage.

Step 4: Divide your weekly wage from Step 3 in half to determine your weekly benefit amount.

$724.61 ÷ 2 = $362.30, rounded to the nearest dollar = $362

In this example, $362 is your weekly benefit amount.

Calculating your maximum benefit credit

The total amount of UI benefits you can receive in your benefit year is called your maximum benefit credit. Your maximum benefit credit is calculated as the lesser of either:

  • 30 times your weekly benefit amount, or
  • 36% of the total wages in your base period

The following example shows how to determine your maximum benefit credit.

Example

If your weekly benefit amount is $362, multiply this number by 30:
$362.30 x 30= $10,860

To calculate 36% of the total wages in your base period, add your wages earned from each quarter during your base period:
$7,800 + $7,800 + $8,840 + 10,000 = $34,400 (total wages)

If your total wages are $34,400, multiply this number by 0.36 (36%): $34,440 x 0.36 = $12,398

Since $10,860 is less than $12,398, your maximum benefit credit would be $10,860.

Calculating your duration of benefits

The number of weeks you are eligible to receive UI benefits is called your duration of benefits. Your duration of benefits is calculated by dividing your maximum benefit credit by your weekly benefit amount.

The maximum number of weeks you can receive full unemployment benefits is 30 weeks (capped at 26 weeks during periods of extended benefits and low unemployment). However, many individuals qualify for less than 30 weeks of coverage.

The following examples show how to determine your duration of benefits.

Example 1

Your maximum benefit credit is $10,860 and your weekly benefit amount is $362.
$10,860 ÷ $362 = 30 weeks   
In this example, you would be eligible to receive $362 for 30 weeks.

Example 2

Your maximum benefit credit is $8,688 and your weekly benefit amount is $362.
$8,688 ÷ $362 = 24 weeks
In this example, you would be eligible to receive $362 for 24 weeks.

Dependency allowance

If you are the whole or main support of a child, you may be eligible for a weekly dependency allowance of $25 per dependent child. Spouses are not included.

The total dependency allowance you receive cannot be more than 50% of your weekly benefit amount. You may be eligible for the dependency allowance if you are the main support for any child who is:

  • Under the age of 18
  • Under the age of 24 and a full-time student at an educational institution
  • Over the age of 18 and incapacitated due to a mental or physical disability

Additional Resources

Employee or Independent Contractor

To be eligible for unemployment insurance benefits, you must have had enough earnings as an employee in the four calendar quarters before you applied for benefits. In Massachusetts, with just a few exceptions, the law assumes that any worker who provided services for an employer was an employee, and that the pay they received should count toward their eligibility for unemployment benefits.

Your status as an employee does not depend on whether your employer tells you that you are an employee or independent contractor, reports your income on a 1099 tax form instead of a W-2, pays you in cash, or tells you that you are not eligible for unemployment insurance or other benefits. If your employer believes you are not an employee, they must prove that to DUA.

Until and unless your employer can prove to DUA all three factors in the test described below, you are assumed to be their employee, and should file an application for unemployment benefits if you lost work or had your hours reduced. You may submit your application on UI Online, or call DUA at (617) 626-6800 for assistance filing an application.  

The Three-Part Employee Status Test

An employer who wants to treat someone as an independent contractor rather than employee for purposes of unemployment insurance must prove to DUA that the claimant’s work:

  • Is done without the direction and control of the employer, both in their contract and in practice; and
  • Is performed either outside the usual course of the employer’s business or outside all of the employer’s places of business; and
  • Is being done by someone who has their own independent business or trade doing that kind of work.

DUA must decide that the employer proved all three factors of this test for your wages from that employer to be excluded from your unemployment claim. If DUA determines your employer can treat you as an independent contractor, you will have the right to appeal, and should carefully review the notice of your decision for instructions on how to file your appeal.

What if my Wages or Employer is not in DUA’s System?

When your employer improperly treats you as an independent contractor, rather than an employee, they might not report your wage information to DUA as required. As a result, when you file a claim for unemployment benefits, your initial monetary determination may not reflect all of your wages or employment information. This may lead to a disqualification notice saying you do not have enough wages on file to qualify for unemployment benefits, or you may receive a lower weekly benefit amount.

When you receive a monetary determination from DUA, review the wage and employer information included on page two of the notice carefully. If you believe any wage or employer information is missing or incorrect, please call DUA at (617) 626-6800 for assistance correcting this information.

If you have evidence of the pay you received from an employer that you worked for during your base period that is not listed on your monetary determination, or of pay you received that is not accurately reported on your monetary determination, please have that ready to provide to DUA. Evidence might include paystubs, tax forms (whether W-2 or 1099 forms), or bank statements showing pay deposits. You may follow the instructions on your notice to send copies of this evidence to DUA along with a wage and employer correction form and to appeal your monetary determination.

Once DUA corrects your wage and/or employer information, it may then reconsider your monetary determination and you may be found eligible for benefits, or to receive a higher weekly benefit amount.

Contact

Phone

Call Center (877) 626-6800

Open 8:30 a.m.–4:30 p.m., Monday–Friday. Multilingual call agents are available.

TeleCert Line (Automated system is operational*) (617) 626-6338

To request weekly benefits, daily 6 a.m.–10 p.m.

Payment Status Line (Automated System is operational*) (617) 626-6563

To check your claim or benefit payment status (*please do not transfer to an agent while in the system-this is not staffed at this time)

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