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To receive unemployment benefits in Michigan, you must have worked for wages during a time frame called the "base period." To find your base period, start by dividing each year into three-month quarters: The first quarter is January to March; the second is April to June; the third is July to September, and the fourth is October to December. On the day you first apply for benefits, go back to the most recently completed quarter. So if you were applying in November 2011, the last completed quarter would be July to September 2011. Now count back four more quarters: Those four are your base period. In the example, it would be July 2010 through June 2011. You cannot receive benefits unless you have received wages in at least two of the quarters in your base period.
Once you've worked in two quarters of your base period, your wages can qualify you for benefits using one of two calculations -- based on your peak earnings during the period, or by comparing your earnings to the average weekly wage in Michigan. You must have received at least $2,871 in wages in one quarter in your base period, and your total wages for the entire base period must be at least 1.5 times your highest-earning quarter. If your best quarter was $4,300, for example, then your total for the base period must have been at least $6,450. Or, your total wages for the entire base period must be at
least 20 times the average weekly wage paid in Michigan. This figure changes each year; for 2011, it was $823.35. Multiplying that by 20 gives you $16,467.
If your wages in your regular base period don't qualify you for benefits, the state will also look at your "alternate base period," which is simply the four most recently completed quarters.
To claim benefits, it can't be your fault that you're out of work. In other words, you had to have been laid off. If you quit your previous job, you won't be eligible unless you can show you had "good cause" for leaving, such as harassment or an unsafe workplace. You're also not eligible if you were fired for misconduct, intoxication, a criminal conviction, workplace violence, theft or vandalism. And if you stole something after being notified that you were being laid off, you're ineligible, too.
Eligibility for benefits in Michigan depends on you not only being able to work and willing to work, but also actively looking for full-time work. Before receiving benefits, you must submit your resume to the state's employment agency, the Michigan Talent Bank, and visit a "Michigan Works" service center. If you're offered a "suitable" job and turn it down, you lose your benefits. If your previous employer calls to offer you an interview for a different "suitable" job ad you decline the interview, you also can lose your benefits. The Michigan Employment Security Act doesn't define "suitable;" that's up to unemployment agency staff.