Should you take a seasonal holiday job if you’re unemployed?


It’s difficult to be unemployed, especially if your employment status is prolonged. Holiday time can be particularly unsettling, since holiday gifts and festivities put pressure on an already reduced income. Should you take a seasonal job? If you do, will that affect your unemployment benefits?

The short answer is yes, it very well could.

Employment attorney Steven Auerbach in Narberth, Pennsylvania, says you could lose your unemployment.

“If this is a full-time position,” he says, “you can make yourself ineligible. However, your benefits may transition to partial unemployment depending on how much money you make.”

Tulsa, Oklahoma, attorney Howard Berkson agrees. “When you get laid off from the seasonal job, you may end up receiving a lower amount [of unemployment] than before you worked. The people on the unemployment hotline can be helpful about specifics. However, if you call them and tell them you have a work opportunity but might not take it, that could negatively affect your unemployment benefits.”

This should spell caution to those on unemployment.

The benefits of part-time seasonal holiday work

While you should exercise judicious caution regarding seasonal part-time work, that’s not to say you should avoid it altogether. Some workers have used seasonal work to secure full-time jobs. Such was the experience of Margaret Bartley, who took a $6-per-hour temporary job, learned some new skills and secured a full-time job that paid $25 per hour.

“That’s not likely to happen at a Christmas retail job,” she says. But, you never know.

Taking a part-time job over the holidays could also extend your unemployment benefits. Since your benefits will be reduced due to you taking the part-time job, you’ll be eligible to receive benefits over a longer period of time.

Keep in mind, however, that there is some lag time when you make changes to your benefits. After the seasonal job has run its course, you may find yourself with less income for a short time, Berkson says.

If you do take a seasonal job this holiday season, be sure to report your income on your taxes. Otherwise, you’ll have to add tax fraud to the list of troubles you’re dealing with.

Starting a business while out of work

Many people who lose their jobs want to know if starting a business can affect their unemployment benefits. Just as seasonal and part-time work can reduce your benefits, so too can starting a business. Some states, like Illinois, reduce unemployment benefits when the recipient makes over 50 percent of his weekly benefit amount in side, or partial, earnings. Other states take nothing.

Christopher Ezold, a labor attorney in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania, says that being self-employed generally revokes eligibility for unemployment in several states.

If you are in this boat or are considering a business launch while collecting unemployment benefits, your best bet is to consult a local attorney to discuss your unique situation. You can start with a free question in Avvo’s Q&A forum.

Where and how to file for unemployment online

Every state has its own eligibility requirements and method for applying for unemployment benefits. If you believe you are entitled to unemployment, contact your state’s unemployment office.

America’s Service Locator offers both employed and unemployed persons a way to find workforce services, such as employment training and information on filing benefits in their local area.