Is Unemployment a Public Record?

Using mobile phone while waiting for a job interview!

If you've ever received unemployment benefits, you may have wondered if anyone else—such as lenders or potential employers—can find out that you were out of work. The answer is no: Unemployment benefits are not a public record, and other than in a few circumstances, no one can see if you're receiving or have received them.

Who Can Find Out if I'm Collecting Unemployment?

Generally, members of the public cannot access any records related to your unemployment benefits. Individuals like your friends and family, as well as prospective employers and organizations, are not privy to records indicating you receive or have received unemployment benefits unless you show them.

The major exception to this is your previous employers, who will be notified when you apply for unemployment benefits. This is because in order to process your unemployment insurance application, your state must verify a few things with your previous employer including your wages, dates of employment and circumstances around you losing your job.

In addition to your past employers, there are a few other—albeit fairly rare—instances that someone could see a record of your unemployment benefits. According the U.S. Department of Labor, state unemployment agencies are only allowed to share unemployment records in the following circumstances:

  1. Disclosure to public officials: In the case that a public official (federal, state or local) needs to access your unemployment benefits history to administer or enforce a law, state unemployment agencies may have to make the records available. Additionally, unemployment records must be made available to certain government agencies that handle child support enforcement and food stamps.
  2. Subpoenas: In certain instances, unemployment agencies may receive an official subpoena for your unemployment records and must disclose your information.
  3. Disclosure to private entities with your consent: If you provide consent as part of a written agreement, unemployment agencies may disclose your unemployment information to a private entity. Any entity that receives your unemployment information is not allowed to share it with anyone else and must pay for the costs associated with the disclosure.

Will Unemployment Show Up on My Credit Report?

A record of receiving unemployment benefits will not appear in your credit reports. Though you may see a list of past employers, your credit report is mainly filled with information from financial institutions, like banks, credit unions and debt collection agencies. Bankruptcy filings are the only public record included in your credit report, and only because it may be relevant to a lender. Income, marital status and bank balances are not included in your reports at all.

If you've combed through your credit reports and seen past and current employers listed, it's because you included that information on a past application for credit. Lenders often use your income and employer to determine whether to grant you a loan or credit, and when they send your application details to credit reporting agencies, your employment information is sometimes included.

It's important to know that the "employers" entry on your credit reports does not represent your complete employment history and will only include occasional instances where employment information was received. This information is not factored into any credit scoring models and will not have an impact on your credit scores.

Can Employers Still Find Out I Was Unemployed?

While prospective employers are not able to find out if you've received unemployment benefits, they may still use other methods to find lapses in your employment history and may question you on why you were out of work. Many employers run employment background checks to make sure your employment history lines up with what's on your résumé. If you're worried an employer may find out you were out of work, it's good to prepare a response that explains why you weren't working during that time.

How to Boost Your Credit While Unemployed

If you're currently unemployed and worry you may fall behind on bill payments, contact your creditors immediately to see what relief options may be available. In the case that your credit score dips due to late or missed payments, you may be able to raise it instantly using Experian Boost®ø, a tool that allows you to increase your FICO® Score in minutes by giving you credit for past on-time payments for utility and telecom bills.