Many unemployment claimants are unsure of how the unemployment filing process goes, especially the time frame for filing an initial claim. You can’t file for unemployment before your last day of work, even if you know your job will be terminated soon. After the last day of work, it’s always best to file your claim as soon as possible to speed up the process. Waiting week requirements and severance pay may delay the start of your unemployment payments but not the date you can file your claim.

COVID-19 (Coronavirus) update:

If COVID-19 has affected your job, you may be eligible for unemployment benefits. Head to the Department of Labor's website for updates, and check out careeronestop to learn how to file for unemployment in your state.

Last Day of Work

Regardless of what state you’re talking about, unemployment doesn’t begin until there is a loss of work or a job separation. The date this happens is commonly referred to as the last day of work, even when it’s just a loss of work instead of a full separation. You can’t file an unemployment claim until your last day of work. If you attempt to do so, the state will find out when it verifies your last day of work with your employer, and your claim will be denied.


File for your unemployment benefits as soon as possible. The claims process involves reviewing previous wages and contacting previous employers. In some cases, it can involve communication between two state governments. With the verification and appeals process, the initial claims process can be delayed due to complications. The sooner you apply for benefits, the sooner the state can get started. Even if you believe you will find a new job quickly, file your claim. You can always close your claim when you get the job.

Waiting Week

Some states require a waiting week before collecting unemployment. This is one full week of unemployment before you can start to accrue benefits. The first day of the week begins the day after your last day of work. On the eighth day, you become eligible to accrue unemployment benefits. Even if your state requires a waiting week, you still can file your unemployment claim immediately after your last day of work.

Separation Pay

In some states, separation pay can delay your unemployment benefits. Separation pay is money your employer gives you to help you adjust to being unemployed, usually because the termination was not your fault. In most cases, separation pay equals a number of weeks of your salary. In states that count separation pay as income, you can’t collect unemployment until it runs out. Although this moves the date your unemployment benefits accrue, you can still file your claim the day after your last day of work.