Unemployment Insurance (UI)

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The Employment Development Department (EDD) is the state agency connecting jobseekers and employers; their website covers benefits, taxes, labor issues, statistics about the labor market, and a lot more.  Unemployment insurance (UI) is just one of their programs and seems to go by several names.  In this guide, "EDD" means the larger agency and "UI" or "unemployment office" is the specific program.

How to File Your California Unemployment Insurance Claim

There are two ways to file:

Option 1:  Call the Unemployment Office

  • Be patient, because no matter when you call it will take some time to get to a real person.  The unemployment office recommends avoiding calls on Mondays, after a holiday, or 8-8:30 a.m.  They claim to be least busy on Wednesday and Thursday.
  • If you get a message telling you they have too many calls and to go online to apply instead, keep calling back until you get a message that takes you to a phone tree.  If you get the phone tree, follow the phone tree options and eventually you will get a real person on the line. 

Option 2: Online

  • You'll start by reading a lot of instructions and then answering some short questions. This is to verify that the online option is okay for you specifically.  If you are told that you must call instead, be sure you answered everything accurately.  If you did, your only option is to call.

If you use a library computer to file online:

  • Reserve as much time as possible.  Even if you are a quick typist, it takes a while and if your time runs out you'll have to start over.
  • If you are new to the Internet, try to bring someone with you who is more familiar with computers.
  • When you are doing the form, read everything and print anything out that you might want to look at later.  If you see the words "printer-friendly" near the top of the page, it's a page they expect people will need to print.  Use the "printer-friendly" option to make sure it prints properly.
  • If you can't get to the next page, check for red writing and then do whatever the instructions in red say.  The red is to notify you of a problem that must be fixed before you can proceed.

What you need to file

No matter which option you choose, you'll need this information ready: 

  • Name, address, telephone number, birth date, and social security number
  • Last employer's name, address, zip code, telephone number, and your last date worked there
  • Employment history for last 18 months (all names, dates of work, and wages earned)
  • The specific reason you are no longer working
  • Citizenship status and, if applicable, your alien registration number.
  • Driver's license number or state ID number. 

No matter how you submit your application, the UI office states it will take 10 days for your claim to be processed, so choose whatever option is best for you.  Your library has many resources for jobseekers, from links to local employment organizations to recommended websites, so be sure to call your neighborhood library for help once you are at the job-hunting stage.