North Carolina Unemployment Benefits and Eligibility

Eligibility Team
Researcher & Writer
March 27, 2020

COVID-19 UPDATE: Because the coronavirus pandemic has left so many Americans jobless, the federal government has given states more flexibility in granting unemployment benefits. If you have questions about whether you’re eligible for unemployment benefits read our COVID-19 Unemployment Benefits and Insurance FAQ and check out the NC Unemployment Benefits Due to COVID-19 Tip Sheet.

Guide to unemployment benefits in North Carolina

North Carolina unemployment insurance benefits are administered by the North Carolina Department of Commerce Division of Employment Security (DES). Most employers in the state pay state and federal taxes on wages you earn, and a portion of those taxes are used to fund unemployment insurance payments. Individual employees do not pay anything toward unemployment insurance.

In addition to providing temporary wage replacement income for workers who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own and who qualify for benefits, the DES also administers NCWorks, a job-training and employment service for unemployed North Carolina workers.

How do I file for unemployment benefits in North Carolina?

Although you can file an unemployment claim by phone, fax, or email, the quickest way to file North Carolina unemployment applications is through the DES website.

If you don’t have access to a computer, you can file your initial claim and ongoing weekly claims by calling the DES Customer Call Center at 888-737-0259.

To avoid a delay in receiving benefits, you should file a claim as soon as your job has come to an end or you have worked less than three full-time days in a week. If you are filing a claim for the first time, you’ll be required to create a personalized PIN that will allow you to access your claim information through the North Carolina unemployment website. You will also use this pin to access the North Carolina unemployment phone number system.

You will need to supply the following information when you open an initial claim:

  • Social Security number
  • Home address and mailing address
  • Telephone number
  • A valid email address
  • If you are not a U.S. citizen, you will need an Alien Registration Number.
  • If you were on active duty in the U.S. military in the past 18 months, you will need DD Form 214, Member 4.
  • If you worked for the federal government in the past 18 months, you will need Standard Form 8 and Standard Form 50.
  • You will need all of your employment information for the past 18 months, including all contact information, dates worked and reason for your dismissal.
  • Gross earnings during your last week of employment
  • Amount of severance pay, if any
  • Other states where you have worked in the past 18 months.
  • If you choose to have your payments made by direct deposit, you will also need to supply appropriate information for that option (bank name, account, and routing number).

Like many other states, the North Carolina unemployment program has a one-week waiting period. You will not be paid any benefits during this week. You will need to serve an unpaid waiting week each time you apply for North Carolina unemployment benefits during your established benefit year.

Where do I submit my claim?


The quickest way to file North Carolina unemployment applications is through the DES website.

By phone

DES Customer Call Center
8:00 a.m. to 5 p.m., M-F

In person

North Carolina Unemployment Office
Division of Employment Services
P.O. Box 25903
Raleigh, NC  27611-5903

Although DES maintains a physical address in Raleigh, if you need assistance regarding North Carolina unemployment, contact DES via telephone or email.

How unemployment works in North Carolina

  1. If you have lost your job, contact the North Carolina unemployment department as soon as possible to file for unemployment. You can do this online, by phone, or by visiting a North Carolina unemployment office.
  2. After meeting North Carolina unemployment benefits eligibility, you may be approved to begin receiving unemployment benefits. If you denied based on North Carolina unemployment qualifications, you may file an appeal.
  3. If approved, the North Carolina unemployment department will begin your compensation, either through a debit card or direct deposit. You may qualify for up to $350 per week.
  4. In North Carolina, weekly claim filing is important to ensure you are looking for work. The state will use your reporting as proof that you are job hunting, and will not approve your benefits payments without this information.
  5. In most cases, unemployed workers find new jobs before their benefits end at 20 weeks. If you do not find new work, you can file a North Carolina unemployment extension.


What are the requirements to qualify for unemployment benefits in North Carolina?

To be eligible to receive payments you must meet the requirements as set forth by the DES.  The state has three basic criteria.

  • You must be unemployed through no fault of your own.  This means that you were laid off or let go due to lack of work.  You will not be eligible for benefits if you were fired for misconduct or you voluntarily quit.
  • You must be monetarily eligible.  To be able to receive benefits, you must meet certain minimum wage criteria.  This means you have earned qualifying dollar amounts during your Base Period.

You must be able, available and actively seeking work.  The state maintains that you must contact at least five employers each week you claim benefits as part of your requirements.  In addition, it is mandatory that you must register with the state’s job search and training program

Do I have to look for a job to get North Carolina unemployment benefits?

One of the requirements for collecting benefits is that recipients must conduct an active and ongoing job search each week. Claimants must contact at least five potential employers during the week.  Failure to make at least five contacts in a week could result in your benefits being denied or delayed for that week.

The DES has the right to check your work search records for up to five years after you claim benefits, so not only should you keep an accurate log of your work search records every week you are claiming benefits, you will need to keep those records for that five year period. If you have questions about how to maintain these records, you can visit one of several North Carolina unemployment office locations.

Most job hunters are able to find new work before their benefits run out. In some cases, such as high North Carolina unemployment rates, you may contact the unemployment department to inquire about filing an extension.

You will need to keep a detailed record of your work search activities, providing the following information:

  • Employer’s name.
  • Job position you inquired about or applied for.
  • Contact information for the employer, including URL address of their website, an email address, telephone number and/or their physical address.
  • The date you applied for the job or made contact with the employer.
  • Confirmation information that may include the name and job title of the employer you contacted or an email or confirmation number.

To be considered a valid contact, you must employ one or more of the following methods:

  • Submitting a job application in person or online.
  • Sending an email to a person who has hiring authority.
  • Conducting a telephone conversation with a specific individual who has hiring authority.
  • Meeting in person with the employer. That person must have hiring authority or be a person designated by the hiring authority.
  • Go through an interview with the employer.
  • Submit an application through the NCWorks Career Center.
  • Attend a company job fair.
  • Contact with a union agent or hiring hall.

If you do not properly document your job search, it will not be accepted as a valid job contact.  In addition, you can only contact an employer once in a week about the same job if there is no change in the job’s status.  Also, it is not a valid contact if you contact an employer despite lacking the qualifications, knowledge, skills and abilities to do the job.  You cannot just leave a message if you call an employer. You must make actual contact with an appropriate designated hiring authority.

If you are offered a job that can be defined as “suitable work” you could have your benefits delayed or disqualified if you refuse to take the job.  Suitable work is defined as a job that is compatible with the person’s health, safety, morals, physical fitness, training and experience. In addition, the job is within an acceptable distance from the individual’s residence and provides approximately the level of wages as previous jobs.

It is also mandatory that unemployment claimants register on the site to assist them with their job search, training and education efforts.

Are weekly claim certifications required in North Carolina?

Yes. To continue to receive benefits each week, you must certify your claim. You can do this online at the DES website or file by telephone by calling 888-372-3453.

You must follow these NC Unemployment guidelines:

  • For North Carolina unemployment eligibility, the earliest you can file a weekly certification is on each Sunday.  The questions you will need to answer will cover the prior seven-day period of Sunday through Saturday.
  • You must file your North Carolina weekly claims within 14 days from the week ending date that you are claiming.  For DES purposes, the week begins on Sunday and ends on Saturday.
  • If you do not file within that 14 day period, you will not be able to claim benefits for that week.  You will be required to reopen your claim and serve another unpaid waiting week.
  • If you use the telephone to file your claim and the last number of your Social Security number is an odd number, you will need to call in and file your claim on Monday for each week.  If your Social Security number ends in an even number, you will need to call in on Tuesday. If you miss either of these days, you can also call in on Wednesday through Sunday.
  • The hours to file your claim by both computer and by telephone are 8 am to midnight.

When and how will I be paid my weekly unemployment?

The North Carolina DES uses a debit card as the default method to make UI benefit payments more secure and convenient for claimants. Users have access to their benefits 24 hours a day, 7 days a week through Bank of America, which administers the program, or anywhere that Visa debit cards are accepted. You do not need to have a bank account as the debit card is separate from any particular existing bank account you may have.

Claimants who do not want to use a debit card have the option of choosing to have their benefit payments directly deposited into their own existing checking or savings account at any participating bank, savings and loan or credit union. Direct deposit is confidential, automatic and convenient and allows you to withdraw cash on the same date that payments are made to your account.

How are weekly benefits determined in North Carolina?

When you file a claim, DES will send you a Wage Transcript and Monetary Determination letter.  This shows all employers you worked for and what your wages were for your base period. This does not guarantee you will be paid North Carolina unemployment benefits but outlines how much you could be paid and for how many weeks if you meet all North Carolina unemployment requirements.

How much you will be paid is determined by the amount of wages earned in your Base Period.  As part of your initial North Carolina unemployment application process, you will need to determine what your total gross wages were during your Base Period, as well as how much you received during each calendar quarter. Your Period is the first four of the past five completed calendar quarters prior to the date you applied for benefits.

To qualify for benefits, you must have qualifying wages which are defined as six times the average insured weekly wages in at least two quarters of either the Base Period or an alternate Base Period. To file North Carolina unemployment, you must have at least $780 in wage in one of the last two quarters to establish a Weekly Benefit Amount.

The Weekly Benefit Amount is calculated by adding the wages paid to you in the last two completed quarters of your Base Period and dividing that number by 52.

If that amount is less than $15, you are not eligible for benefits. The maximum North Carolina amount — also known as a Weekly Benefit Amount — you can receive is $350.

Benefits are available for a maximum of up to 20 weeks.

What if my claim is denied?

There are several factors that may cause your North Carolina unemployment claim for benefits to either be denied initially or denied for one or more weeks after you have been approved.  DES will continue to monitor your claim to make sure you meet all requirements, but if a question does pop up, it could take up to several weeks to receive, review and make a determination of the information that is provided.

If you are denied North Carolina unemployment benefits, you can file an appeal online. For general appeals inquiries, call 1-888-737-0259.

Reasons why your claim might be denied could include:

  • Not providing complete information on your claim, both initially or after you are already collecting benefits.
  • The stated reason why you are unemployed. If your unemployment is through no fault of your own, then you should not encounter any problems. But if you quit or were terminated for misconduct, among other reasons, then your claim will need further scrutiny.
  • Did you receive any vacation, severance, bonus or other income for the week you are claiming benefits?  If so, this will have an impact on the amount you will be eligible to receive.
  • Are you ready, willing and able to work for the entire week you claim benefits? If you do not meet these criteria, you could face a possible partial denial or full denial of benefits, depending on how many days you were not available.
  • You did not complete the required minimums for conducting a work search. While you are unemployed, you must reach out to five employers or more every week to meet this requirement.
  • Did you file your certification within the allotted time frame for collecting benefits? You must do so in a timely manner or risk losing benefits for that week.

If you are denied benefits for one or more weeks, you have the right to appeal that decision.  A determination letter will be mailed to you if your claim is denied, and to file an appeal, you must follow the instructions on the determination and file an appeal within the specified time frame. Also make sure to meet the stated deadline, as late appeals will be denied due process.

While your claim is under appeal, it is critical that you continue to file weekly certifications unless you have returned to full time work. If you have returned to work, you must report your income in the week it was earned instead of the week it was received. Failure to do so constitutes fraud.

Eligibility Team
Written by
Eligibility Team
We are a team of experts dedicated to finding the right government programs for you. Our mission is simple: help people quickly and easily understand which programs they might be eligible for—all in one place. Our team is dedicated to researching and providing you with the most relevant information. We compile only the most trusted information from government sources into one place so you can find the facts you need and skip what you don’t.
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