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About 20 million Americans are currently receiving unemployment benefits. In some states, they stand to lose them if they don’t actively search for work. That’s because some states have reimposed work search requirements that were waived in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Work search requirements differ across states. But typically, they involve job seekers making a minimum of between one (in Delaware) and five (in Florida) “work search contacts” per week with employers who might reasonably be expected to have openings.
States also typically require claimants to fill out a “work search log.” Some states require claimants to submit those logs weekly or monthly, whereas others require that claimants keep them on file in their own records for one year with the expectation that they may be requested at any time.
There are several kinds of activities that qualify as work search for the purpose of maintaining eligibility for unemployment benefits. Each state’s unemployment handbook provides specific details. But qualifying activities typically include:
• Applying for a job online, in person or by mail.
• Registering for work and reemployment services with a state career center.
• Interviewing with potential employers in person, by phone or by video (whether on-demand or live).
• Registering for work with private staffing agencies.
• Attending job search seminars, career networking meetings or job fairs.
Close to half of states have now reinstated their work search requirements. Even before the requirements go into effect, however, there could be benefits to beginning your search early.
• Job seekers who are active, engaged and responsive now will have a distinct advantage over those who wait and rejoin the labor market when it is more competitive. That’s because job search intensity has been fairly low since COVID-19 outbreaks began in the U.S.
• The pandemic made some forms of work more dangerous, public transit risks and restrictions made getting to work more difficult, and school closures made business as usual untenable for many working parents. Expanded unemployment benefits also eased the pressures on unemployed workers to find new jobs immediately.
• The vast majority of people who lost their jobs were on temporary layoff and didn’t see a need to find something new because they expected to go back to their old jobs.
A year into the crisis, however, many temporary layoffs have turned permanent. And it is becoming clear that other temporary layoffs will last longer than initially expected. With many layoffs likely to outlast unemployment benefits, workers will need to find new opportunities — even if only in the interim. And while the current labor market environment is tough for job seekers, we expect it will only grow more competitive in the coming months.