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Wisconsin Unemployment Benefits

Workers experiencing unemployment in Wisconsin are under elevated levels of stress and uncertainty. Financial and familial obligations do not stop simply because breadwinners have lost their jobs, and these strains can take their toll on residents. Fortunately, the WI unemployment insurance (UI) program is in place to aid workers as they navigate this transition. Also called unemployment compensation (UC), this supportive program provides jobless laborers with monetary funds while they search for new work opportunities. UI is funded through employers’ tax money, and the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development (DWD) manages the program throughout the state.

In order to meet the Wisconsin eligibility for unemployment requirements, candidates must have lost their jobs due to external reasons. Furthermore, they must meet state-mandated financial requirements to successfully receive compensation. The sections to follow elaborate on what exactly claimants must do to meet these qualifications for unemployment, as well as provide a summary explaining how to apply for unemployment online. Additionally, the information below includes a section describing the types of information claimants are obligated to provide when they apply for the program and how petitioners must claim unemployment benefits each week.

What is unemployment in Wisconsin?

Wisconsin unemployment insurance benefits provide valuable support to jobless workers while they pursue new professional opportunities. In turn, UC recipients may use these funds to help cover the cost of living for themselves and their families after they lost their jobs. However, potential enrollees must keep in mind that even if they qualify for unemployment insurance, this support is only dispensable for a limited period of time. Specifically, the DWD only permits beneficiaries with an unemployment claim to receive funding for a maximum of 26 weeks during a 52-week period. During this time, it is imperative that UI claimants pursue supplementary work to eventually replace the financial assistance.

In addition to maintaining an unemployment insurance coverage time limit, the state imposes monetary limits on candidates’ award amounts as well. The total value of candidates’ UI benefits received each week is referred to as their “weekly benefit rate” (WBR). The lowest WBR enrollees may qualify for is $54, and the highest WBR they may receive is $370.

What are the requirements to get unemployment in Wisconsin?

Eligibility for unemployment in Wisconsin is determined based on different factors regarding the candidates’ profiles. The first aspect of petitioners’ eligibility that the DWD takes into account relates to how much income applicants earned during their base periods. These base periods total one calendar year, and they consist of the first four of the five most recent calendar quarters that concluded before petitioners filed their claims. Specifically, unemployment insurance eligibility examines how much income petitioners earned throughout that 12-month period. In order to qualify for UC, claimants must have met the following requirements:

  • Covered employment: Having covered employment means petitioners worked for companies who paid UI taxes. Qualifications for unemployment indicate that candidates have earned wages from these types of establishments in at least two of their four base period quarters.
  • Qualifying total wages: In order for enrollees to receive UC, candidates need to have earned at least $1,350 during their highest base period quarter. This total permits enrollees to be eligible for the state’s minimum WBR.
  • Three lower quarters: When totaled together, claimants’ wages in their three lowest base period quarters must total or be greater than four times their awarded WBRs.
  • WBRs and total earnings: When the DWD determines who qualifies for unemployment, it will assess candidates’ total income earned throughout their base periods. To receive benefits, claimants must have earned total base period funds that equaled at least 35 times the WBRs they are granted.
  • Earnings in relation to past claims: Petitioners who claimed UC funds in past years will have their qualifying wages calculated in relation to their previous WBAs. In particular, these candidates must have worked since that particular benefit year started. Furthermore, claimants need to have earned at least eight times that year’s WBR totals.

Eligibility for UI requirements also take into account the circumstances that caused enrollees to lose their jobs. As a general rule, only petitioners who are unemployed due to situations they could not control may be eligible to receive UC benefits. Therefore, claimants who are out of work due to the following situations do not meet the program’s unemployment insurance eligibility requirements:

  • Quitting for personal reasons: Candidates who quit their jobs are not automatically disqualified from receiving UI funds. However, claimants who vacated their positions without professionally-based excuses may not collect funds. For example, petitioners who quit their jobs because they did not like their supervisors or because they found their schedules to be unfavorable may not collect benefits.
  • Candidates who are fired: Claimants who are fired for misconduct may not receive UI benefits. This is due to the fact that petitioners who lose their jobs for these reasons are at fault for their lack of work.
  • Lack of transportation and availability: One of UC’s qualifications for unemployment in WI is that claimants need to be willing and able to work. As a result, candidates who may not work or who were fired from their last places of employment because they did not have consistent transportation may not receive UC. Likewise, petitioners who cannot work full-time jobs because they have to be home to care for elderly people or children are not eligible to claim UI.

How can I sign up for unemployment in Wisconsin?

Learning how to apply for unemployment online in Wisconsin is important for most claimants since it is the quickest and most efficient method to receive program benefits promptly. However, claimants who do not have access to internet may also apply for UI over the phone. When researching where to sign up for unemployment, petitioners will find these are the only two options available.

Regardless of whether petitioners are using the online application for unemployment or submitting their information over the phone, claimants must supply the DWD with specific pieces of information. In fact, candidates must be ready to provide:

  • Identification information: When they apply for unemployment, candidates who are United States residents are obligated to submit their Social Security Numbers. If applicable, petitioners must also include their WI driver’s licenses or state-issued identification card numbers. Claimants who were born abroad must include their Alien Registration Numbers, document numbers and their associated expiration dates.
  • Contact credentials: Since the DWD corresponds with petitioners over the phone or through the mail, applicants need to provide the department with their email and mailing addresses, as well as their telephone numbers.
  • Employment history: When petitioners file for an unemployment claim, they must disclose their work experience. This information must include the previous 18 months, and claimants are required to provide their former employers’ names, addresses and contact information. In addition, applicants need to explain why they no longer work at these establishments, as well as provide the DWD with the specific dates they worked for these businesses.

Claimants who file for unemployment in WI may also need to provide the state with additional information, depending on where they used to work and who they are associated with. For example, union members need to give the DWD the names of their union halls, along with the organizations’ corresponding local numbers. On the other hand, federal employees are responsible for giving the DWD their Member-4 copy of the DD Form 214. Likewise, federal civilian workers who complete the unemployment registration process must submit their SF-8 or SF-50.

How do I prepare for the unemployment insurance interview in Wisconsin?

Candidates may need to prepare for the unemployment insurance interview in Wisconsin if the DWD determines that claimants’ petitions raise any eligibility concerns. While many of these conversations take place via an unemployment phone interview, some candidates may need to fill out forms or provide their statements in person. Cases with eligibility issues are generally assigned to DWD representatives within three weeks from when claimants submitted their petitions. However, these redistributions occur on a rolling basis, so wait times for petitioners may fluctuate.

The DWD adjudicators send notices to applicants that detail when the UI phone interview will take place. These conversations are direct, and the questions asked during the unemployment interview will help the department understand the reasons that led to the claimants’ job losses.

In order to prepare for the UI interview, applicants must take the time to gather any documentation that explains or verifies why they are currently without work. Candidates should be ready to produce relevant documentation, such as any formal separation notices they received from their employers or the two-week notices they submitted, if applicable.

Similarly, petitioners may prepare for the unemployment interview with the claimant by writing down any important dates they may need to relay to the adjudicators. These could include specific days when they met with their human resources departments to discuss workplace issues, received formal warnings or offered potential solutions to improve their employment situations. Likewise, candidates should enter their unemployment phone interview with their start and end dates at their most recent companies readily available.

How do I claim unemployment benefits in Wisconsin?

Petitioners will need to claim unemployment benefits in Wisconsin each week they are enrolled in the program. Claimants may accomplish this task online or over the phone. However, the majority of applicants are eligible to maintain their unemployment benefits claim virtually. In order to begin claiming benefits for unemployment, candidates must attest to the fact that they are able-bodied, have scheduling flexibility to work full-time and are actively pursuing employment opportunities.

Enrollees wondering how to claim unemployment benefits must first register with the Wisconsin Job Service. Candidates are responsible for completing this task within 14 days from when they filed their first claims to the DWD. Until this registration process is successfully finished, claimants are ineligible to receive UC funds.

Similarly, candidates who want to claim UI benefits must complete their state-issued work search reemployment tasks. These requirements are designed to help beneficiaries find work opportunities before their program funds expire. In particular, the DWD requires that petitioners participate in at least four work search activities each week they are claiming benefits for UC. Examples of qualifying UC actions include:

  • Submitting applications to potential employers and job leads.
  • Posting resumes on job employment sites.
  • Attending appointments with career counselors.
  • Interviewing for potential employment opportunities.

What do I do if I am denied unemployment in Wisconsin?

When petitioners are denied unemployment in Wisconsin, they are permitted to file appeals to have their cases reexamined. Employers who are dissatisfied with the DWD’s rulings may also request UI appeals. When claimants are denied unemployment benefits and want to appeal, they must be sure to include:

  • A copy of the determinations they are appealing.
  • Their Social Security Numbers and full names.
  • Their availability, specifically marking times and dates when they would not be available to attend scheduled hearings.
  • Requests for accommodations, such as interpreters.

A WI unemployment denial appeal must be submitted either online or in writing to the Hearing Office. After the office receives these petitions, the trials are scheduled. These events usually take place within three weeks from the date that claimants filed their initial petitions. Administrative law judges (ALJs) oversee these trials. During the denied UI hearings, claimants may request witnesses to provide statements that support their claims, or they may submit evidence on their own. Both employers and applicants have the right to state their testimonies during these hearings.

After the denied UI appeal hearings conclude, the ALJs usually mail their decisions to relevant parties within two weeks. If either the employers or the claimants disagree with these decisions, they have 21 days to appeal the ALJs’ determinations. These additional requests, however, must be sent to the Labor and Industry Review Commission.

How can I apply for a federal unemployment extension in Wisconsin?  

When a federal unemployment extension in Wisconsin is available, UC enrollees are permitted to receive program funds even if they have already utilized benefits for 26 weeks during their claim years. An unemployment benefits extension is only available when Congress puts the measures into place. Similarly, the federal government only deems this program necessary when more workers than usual are out of work in a particular area. As a result, it is not common that a state has an unemployment extension available to program enrollees.

How do I contact the Wisconsin unemployment office?

The Wisconsin unemployment office is responsible for executing the state’s UI program. As a result, the department should also be contacted by enrollees and employers if they have any questions regarding their petitions. Parties may contact their local UI benefits office over the phone, or they may visit these locations in person. Claimants and their former supervisors who live near a WI unemployment insurance benefits office may also visit these locations and propose their questions in person. The Madison Unemployment Insurance Department is located at:

201 E Washington Avenue

Madison, Wisconsin 53703


What is DWD Wisconsin?

DWD Wisconsin is the Department of Workforce Development. Their mission is to advance Wisconsin’s economy by empowering the workforce. The DWD website helps individuals apply for unemployment benefits, file for job injury claims, get work training and much more.

How long after I apply will I get my first payment?

In the state of Wisconsin, claims are usually processed the week after a claim is submitted. However, there is a mandatory waiting week that all individuals who are collecting unemployment for the first time wait through. This is the week that your claim is being processed and reviewed. Individuals do not get paid for the waiting week.

When should I apply for unemployment in Wisconsin?

As soon as you lose your job. No matter what state you are in, you should never wait to file for unemployment benefits. The longer you wait to file your claim, the longer it will be to receive your benefits. The state does not take the day you lost your job into consideration when filing for benefits.

How will I receive my unemployment benefits?

In the state of Wisconsin, there are 2 ways that you can receive your unemployment benefits, through direct deposit or through a Visa pre-paid debit card.

Wisconsin Unemployment Office Locations


Department of Workforce Development 201 E Washington Ave Madison, WI 53703 (608) 266-3131 View Website Unemployement Claim File

Find Unemployment Office Locations

There are 50 Wisconsin Unemployment Office Locations