Pennsylvania Unemployment Benefits and Eligibility

Calendar Icon Updated March 26, 2020

Unemployment compensation is Pennsylvania is administered through the Pennsylvania (PA) Department of Labor and Industry Office of Unemployment Compensation.  Pennsylvania unemployment insurance provides temporary wage replacement income for workers who qualify for benefits as well as job training, search and employment education services.

How Unemployment Works in Pennsylvania

And How To Get Unemployment in Pennsylvania

  1. If you’ve lost your job, you need to apply for Pennsylvania unemployment as soon as possible. This can be done in-person, over the phone, or through the Pennsylvania unemployment website.
  2. If you meet Pennsylvania unemployment qualifications, you will become eligible to receive benefits. This amount may be as high as $573 per week.
  3. In Pennsylvania, you must register with JobGateway, a work search website, within 30 days to maintain your eligibility. This site will help you through the unemployment job hunting process.
  4. You are eligible to claim up to 26 weeks of Pennsylvania unemployment benefits as long as you are searching for work and submitting biweekly proof that you are applying and interviewing for at least two new jobs per week.
  5. If you have not found work before your benefits run out, you may file for a Pennsylvania unemployment extension. Each extension is granted on a case-by-case basis, and there is no guarantee you will continue receiving compensation.

Pennsylvania Unemployment Eligibility Requirements

To qualify for Pennsylvania unemployment compensation benefits, you must meet three core requirements.

Do you meet financial eligibility?  After you file an initial Pennsylvania unemployment claim for benefits, the department will make a determination regarding your financial eligibility.  You must have worked enough weeks and earned enough wages during your base period to qualify for benefits.  After a review, the department will send you a Notice of Financial Determination informing you if you are eligible for PA unemployment or not and the amount of the compensation you may receive.

Are you eligible based on the reason for your job separation?  To meet Pennsylvania unemployment requirements, you must be unemployed or working reduced hours through no fault of your own.  This is known as a qualifying separation.  Generally, you are eligible if you have been laid off from your job due to a lack of work or other similar reason.  You will not be eligible for benefits if you voluntarily quit your job, you will let go for misconduct or you failed to submit and/or pass a drug or alcohol test, or you take part in a work stoppage that is a strike.  However, you may be eligible for benefits if you are a victim of a lock-out.

Under some circumstances, you can receive unemployment compensation if you are still working part-time.  Certain conditions and restrictions will apply.

Are you continuing to maintain PA unemployment eligibility each week?  You must meet a defined set of criteria to maintain Pennsylvania unemployment benefits eligibilityf and collect benefits each week you are unemployed.   These criteria include being ready, willing and available to return to work, either at a new job or at your old job.

You could be disqualified from receiving state of Pennsylvania unemployment benefits if:

  • you are not physically capable of working
  • you decide to take a vacation outside of your labor market
  • you leave the country
  • you do not have daycare for your children
  • you do not have transportation to get to or from your job
  • you are in jail or prison

You must also continue to file a claim each calendar week.  In most cases in Pennsylvania, you will file for two weeks at a time, also known as a biweekly claim, but you will need to certify your Pennsylvania unemployment weekly claim for each week separately.  In all cases, weeks begin on Sunday and end the following Saturday.

You must also register for job search services through Pennsylvania’s JobGateway within 30 days of filing an initial application for benefits.  For details on how to do this, go here.

Every week, you must also actively search for work.  Beginning with the third week in your Benefit Year, you must apply for two jobs and take part in one other work search activity each week.  You can apply for jobs in person, by electronic transmission via the internet or email, physically submitting a resume, or through the Pennsylvania unemployment phone number, as long as you followed the established procedure laid out by the employer.  If you have a job interview, that will count as one of your job applications or work search activities for the week.  Make sure you keep a detailed record of your job search activities so that you can submit documentation when you file your UC claim.

It is critical that you provide complete and accurate information when filing an initial claim, claiming benefits each week, or in any follow-up questions that UC officials may have with you.  Failure to do so could cause your benefits to be denied, and you could face fines, penalties and possible criminal prosecution.

How to File Pennsylvania Unemployment Applications

To receive Pennsylvania unemployment benefits, you must file a claim for each week you are totally or partially unemployed.  For UC purposes, weeks are always defined as starting on Sunday and ending on Saturday.

To file your initial Pennsylvania unemployment application, you will need the following:

  • Social Security number
  • Home address and mailing address
  • Telephone number and 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 reasons 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.
  • Direct deposit information if you choose that option for payments (bank name and address, account and routing number

When you work through Pennsylvania unemployment claim filing for subsequent weeks, you will need the personal identification number (PIN) that you will create the first time you filed for benefits.  You will also need the amount of any gross earnings you made for all work performed during the week you are claiming.  If you did not work at all, then this amount will be zero.  If you earned any holiday or vacation pay for the week, you will need to report that as well.

You will file your Pennsylvania unemployment weekly claims during the week immediately following the two weeks you are claiming.  This can be done Sunday through Friday.  When you receive your initial Claim Confirmation Letter, it will give you instructions on when to file your first biweekly claim.

If you forget a Pennsylvania unemployment claim filing or do not file in a timely manner for any reason, you could be denied benefits and your claim could go “inactive.” If that happens and you will need to reactive your Pennsylvania unemployment, contact a UC service center.

There are several ways you can file an unemployment claim:

Internet.  You can file a biweekly unemployment claim online on Sunday from 6 am to 11 pm, or Monday through Friday from 6 am to 10 pm.  Make sure you get a confirmation page that your claim has been accepted before you exit the system, otherwise you may have to re-file your claim again.

Telephone.  You can also file an unemployment claim through Pennsylvania Teleclaims (PAT) on Sunday from 6 am to 11 pm, or Monday through Friday from 6 am to 9 pm.  Call either of these Pennsylvania unemployment numbers:


877-888-8104 (Spanish)

If you get a busy signal, you will need to hang up and call again.

PAT will ask you a series of questions about your eligibility, and you will need to answer “yes” or “no” using your telephone keypad.  When you are done, PAT will advise you that your claim has been accepted.  Do not hang up until you hear this confirmation, otherwise you will need to call back and file again.

Mail.  Filing by mail is allowed only is certain limited circumstances.  You will need to call 888-313-7284 or TTY users can call 888-334-4046 for details on filing by mail.

TTY.  TTY users can file using the Pennsylvania unemployment department’s TTY services 24 hours a day, Sunday through Friday.  You must first get filing instructions from the department’s TTY information here.  You can also contact an Unemployment Compensation center or a local PA CareerLink office.

When will I get paid my unemployment? How are PA unemployment benefits paid?

If you qualify for benefit and file a claim in a timely manner, you can expect to see your first benefit payment approximately four weeks after filing your initial application.  Because the first week you claim will be your waiting week, your first payment may only be for one week.

Once you have established a schedule, you will be paid every other week, usually within four days after your biweekly claim is filed.  Due to some variance in processing times, it may take as much as 10 days to receive your payment.

You will be paid either through a debit card or by direct deposit into your bank account.  You may switch from one form to another at any time.  If you want to check the status of your payment, you can log on to your benefit payment information page or call the PAT at 888-255-4728, Sunday from 6 am to 11 pm, or Monday through Friday 6 am to 9 pm.  Payment information is generally available the day after a payment has been made to you.

How to determine your weekly Pennsylvania Unemployment amount

The Pennsylvania unemployment rate — the Weekly Benefit Rate (WBR)  — is determined based on wages you were paid during your base year.  As part of your initial application process, you will need to determine what your total gross wages were during your base year, as well as how much you received during each calendar quarter.  Your base year is the first four of the past five completed calendar quarters prior to the date you applied for benefits.

In addition, you must also satisfy a minimum number of credit weeks to be eligible as well.  Credit weeks are the number of weeks in your base year that you earned $116 or more.  You are not eligible to receive benefits if you have fewer than 18 credit weeks in your base year.

All of your wages cannot be earned in one quarter, but your benefit is determined by the amount of wages in your highest quarter.  To be eligible for benefits, at least 37% of your total wages must have been paid in quarters other than your highest quarter.

If you do not meet wage and credit week requirements because you were injured on the job, you can request that an alternate base year be used instead.  The alternate base week is four completed calendar quarters immediately preceding the date of your work-related injury.

In general, your WBR will be about half of your full-time weekly wage up to the maximum on the UC Benefits Chart.  You will be notified of the exact amount when you are mailed a Notice of Financial Determination.  If you have a spouse and dependent children, you may receive an additional $5 weekly for a dependent spouse and another $3 weekly for a dependent child.

Looking for a job while claiming benefits in Pennsylvania: You must actively seek work to be paid unemployment benefits

One of the key provisions for maintaining Unemployment Compensation eligibility is that you must conduct an active job search while you are receiving benefits.  At a minimum, this includes applying for two jobs each week, and conducting at least one other qualifying job search activity as well.  You are expected to begin your job search activities no later than the third week of your Benefit Year.

You can apply for jobs either in person, through electronic means such as submitting an application over the Internet or by email, by phone or physically submitting a job application to an employer.  You cannot keep submitting an application to the same employer unless a different job has opened up or there is a reason to believe the original job hiring criteria have changed.

You should apply for jobs that match your skills, training and experience, so that you will have a reasonable expectation that you can perform the job.  You are allowed to limit your job search and applications to employment that offers wages similar to what you were making and are within a 45 minute commute of your home.  If you can’t find jobs that meet these criteria, you will need to participate in other work search activities.   Qualifying work search activities include:

  • Attending a job fair
  • Searching for jobs posted in JobGateway or on Internet job banks
  • Creating and posting a resume in the JobGateway System or other resume posting services
  • Networking with former colleagues, mentors or other industry professionals who may be able to assist your job search efforts
  • Work with an employment agency or school placement service
  • Take a civil service test or a similar pre-employment skills test
  • Participate in one or more activities offered through the Pennsylvania CareerLink system

You will get credit for a job application activity if you have a job interview instead.  And, if you apply for more than two jobs in a week, you will not need to conduct a work search activity for that week.

Register for the Pennsylvania JobGateway

Another key requirement for maintaining eligibility is that you must register for services through the Pennsylvania JobGateway within 30 days of filing an application for unemployment compensation benefits.  The JobGateway website will offer you a wide variety of reemployment resources that will assist you in finding a job as quickly as possible.  You can access training and job industry information, sharpen your interview skills, get assistance is you are disabled or a veteran, take skills assessments, find tips on preparing a resume and several other related materials.  To access the JobGateway link, go here.

The Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry also administers several other related programs to assist workers with benefits and reemployment services.

 The Unemployment Compensation For Federal Civilian Employees (UCFE) provide services for employees who earned wages in federal civilian employment.  If this is the case, you may be eligible for benefits under the federal UCFE program.

The Unemployment Compensation For Ex-Service Members (UCX) is a federal program that provides benefits to former eligible members of the Armed Forces and the Commissioned Corps of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUAis available for people who have list their job due to a major disaster that has been declared by the President of the United States.  If you are eligible for regular benefits, you must exhaust those before applying for DUA.

If you lost your job because of Foreign Trade competition, you may be eligible for Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA), including job retraining, job search and relocation aid, as well as weekly Trade Readjustment Allowance (TRA) benefits.  Contact a UC service center, visit a local PA CareerLink or go to the U.S. Department of Labor website.

What options do I have if I’m denied benefits? Can I file an appeal in Pennsylvania for a denied unemployment claim?

In some cases, you may be denied benefits or granted an amount you disagree with. In these situations, Pennsylvania unemployment laws allow you to dispute the decision through an appeal process.

You can appeal the initial decision within 15 days after the mailing date of the determination.  Instructions for an appeal will be included in the determination letter.  In most cases, filing an appeal will result in a hearing in front of a referee within 30 days after you file your appeal.  You must come prepared to present all of your evidence as to why you think the determination should be changed.  Following the hearing, you will receive a decision from the referee within two weeks.

You can appeal a referee’s decision in front of the UC Board of Review within 15 days after the mailing date of the referee’s decision.  To do so, follow the instructions contained in the referee’s decision letter.

If you are still not satisfied with the outcome after appealing to the UC Board of Review, you can appeal that decision to the Commonwealth Court within 30 days after the mailing date on the UC Board of Review’s decision letter.

While you are appealing at all levels, if you remain unemployed, you should still be filing a biweekly claim for benefits.  If you do win your appeal, you will only be reimbursed for those weeks that you claimed.

Learn the Basics of Unemployment: Terms

  1. Benefit Week – For Unemployment Compensation purposes, this is the seven day period that always starts on Sunday and ends on Saturday.
  2. Benefit Year – The 52 week period that starts when you file an initial claim for benefits.  Benefits are determined and maxed out based on a payable amount within this time frame.
  3. Profile Reemployment Program (PREP) and Reemployment Services and Eligibility Assessment (RESEA)  – These programs identify claimants most likely to exhaust benefits and may need help finding a new job. If selected for one of these programs, you must participate unless you are excused because you have a good reason not to participate.
  4. PA CareerLink – These Pennsylvania unemployment offices located throughout the commonwealth that assist claimants and job seekers with several different reemployment services such as a job search, resume preparation, training and services directly assisting veterans.  To find the nearest PA CareerLink office, go here. You can also find Pennsylvania unemployment office locations near you by visiting our guide.
  5. Pennsylvania Teleclaims – Also known as PAT, this is the telephone service that allows claimants to call in and file a biweekly claim, request benefits information, and conduct other related services.  The PAT phone number is 888-255-4728.
  6. UC – Unemployment Compensation.
  7. Waiting Week – The first week of your Benefit Year is called the Waiting Week.  Even though you will not collect benefits for this week, you will still need to file a claim for benefits, otherwise your benefits could be delayed.
  8. Weekly Benefit Rate – The amount of unemployment compensation you will be paid each week.

Click Here for our Guide: 5 Things You Need to Know Before Filing Unemployment in Your State

Basic FAQs and Help for the PA Unemployment Program

Pennsylvania Teleclaims for assistance in filing claims, getting benefits information and related services:
877-888-8104 (Espanol)

PA CareerLink.  This website which provides a variety of reemployment services

Pennsylvania Unemployment Compensation Service Centers

UC service centers on accept calls Monday, Tuesday and Thursday from 8 am to 4 pm.

Videophone services for ASL users is available on Wednesdays from noon to 4 pm at 714-704-8474.

TTY message services for filing Pennsylvania unemployment weekly claims are available 24 hours a day, Sunday through Friday at 888-334-4046.
888-313-7284 (TTY)

Duquesne UC Service Center
14 North Linden Street
Duquesne, PA  15110-1067
FAX:  412-267-1475

Erie UC Service Center
1316 State Street
Erie, PA  16501-1978
FAX:  814-871-4863

Indiana UC Service Center
630 Kolter Drive
Indiana, PA  15701-3570
FAX:  724-599-1068

Scranton UC Service Center
30 Stauffer Industrial Park
Taylor, PA   18517-9625
FAX:  570-562-4385


Eligibility Team

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