Dislocated Workers (Definition, Examples, and FAQ)

By Amanda Covaleski
Oct. 10, 2022

Find a Job You Really Want In

Unfortunately, it is possible lose your job for reasons that have nothing to do with your work performance or desire to work for the company. When this occurs, you’re referred to as a dislocated worker.

Dislocated or displaced workers are a unique type of unemployment and are even entitled to certain government benefits while they search for jobs. We’ll go over what makes someone a dislocated worker and what to do if you end up in this situation.

Key Takeaways

  • If you were laid off and are actively looking for a new job, you may qualify as a dislocated (or displaced) worker.

  • When you find yourself a dislocated worker, you should begin searching for a job and file for unemployment.

  • Some of the government services available to dislocated workers include health insurance, training, and coaching.

Dislocated Workers (Definition, Examples, and FAQ)

What Is a Dislocated Worker?

Dislocated workers are people who have lost their jobs due to layoffs at a company. They are not people who have been fired for performance issues or any other reason.

The exact definition varies by state, but at the most basic level, a dislocated worker is someone who was laid off and is actively engaging in or plans to start a job search.

You’ll want to check your state’s Department of Labor guidelines around definitions for displaced workers, but here are the qualifications for dislocated workers in Connecticut as an example.

Though the details vary from state to state, this is a good guide for understanding what it means to be considered a dislocated worker:

  • You’ve been fired or laid off

  • Your employer has announced layoffs for the company, or you’ve been notified that you’ll be laid off in the immediate future. This is the category for anyone who lost their job as a result of mass layoffs or plant closures.

  • You’re self-employed but out of work or “unemployed as a result of general economic conditions in the community or because of a natural disaster”

  • You’re not employed, but you’re dependent on another family member’s income who has been laid-off. This is also known as a displaced homemaker.

  • You’re the spouse of someone in the army who has lost their job or is underemployed.

Other states can include different definitions of dislocated workers, like New York, which includes a case for those who have lost their jobs due to foreign trade conditions or “off-shoring.” Some states have a narrow definition of dislocated workers and mention that they don’t have plans to return to their previous job or industry for new work.

The main thing that ties all of these definitions together is that displaced workers were not fired for work performance or anything personal. Displaced workers result from an economic downturn or company closings, not the work of an individual. In the era of COVID, the economic downturn is impacting many people and making it a huge reason for unemployment or dislocated worker status.

If you lost your job because of a branch office closing, outsourcing of jobs to another country, or a plant closing, you’re most likely qualified to be labeled as a displaced worker. Other things like company mergers or acquisitions can cause layoffs as well. Think about the state of your company and any recent news.

You’ll most likely know why you’re being laid off when the time comes, but it doesn’t help to be aware of what’s going on either.

How Being a Dislocated Worker Works

There are two things you can do when you find yourself a dislocated worker.

  1. Begin Your Job Search

    Many times, when people become displaced workers, they simply return to the job search and look for new employment opportunities.

    Depending on your skillset and work experience, you may be able to find a job quickly without any assistance, or you might have to spend a few months searching. With an economy and labor market this unpredictable, it can be hard to figure out how long you’ll be unemployed and what opportunities are out there.

    Once you know that you’ll be losing your job, getting ahead on the job search is vital. Career centers and job boards continue to help job seekers get a job, and plenty of industries, like medical professions, are hiring now.

  2. File for Unemployment

    If you’re not having any luck finding a job, there are options to file for unemployment and get assistance. Just like the qualifications to be called a displaced worker differ depending on your state, the benefits you can claim as an unemployed worker vary from state to state.

    What doesn’t change is that the Dislocated Worker Programs in each state are federally funded by the Workforce Investment Act (WIA). To learn more about your state’s programs, you can look at the federal Department of Labor’s online directory.

    While the definitions and benefits for displaced workers vary by state, some programs are the same. Many displaced worker benefits include training like skills training for jobs available in the area, literacy and reading comprehension, and English as a second language (ESL) classes.

    Other services can be more like counseling and coaching, with opportunities to help you search for a job, start a business, become self-employed, or help your family deal with unemployment.

    Displaced workers can also be eligible for government assistance in most cases. Dislocated workers can qualify for unemployment assistance.

    Unemployment assistance can cover things like health insurance and give you a small income for a short time. Many states offer displaced workers basic unemployment assistance.

    Washington state allows dislocated workers to claim unemployment and be “eligible for up to 26 weeks of ‘regular’ unemployment-insurance benefits and any extended-benefits programs that may be available during high unemployment.

    These benefits can be combined with an additional 26 weeks for income support for dislocated workers who are enrolled in an approved training plan.”

    Many states follow these guidelines, but be sure to check what you’re eligible for in your state.

Tips for Displaced Workers

Luckily, there are more options for displaced workers now than ever. Here are a few tips to get you back on your feet if you become a dislocated worker like many Americans currently are.

  • Keep searching. Don’t stop your job search if you become a displaced worker. Keep your eyes peeled for new opportunities, especially in new industries or places you never thought you’d work. The most important thing is not to give up and keep applying anywhere you can.

  • Know your benefits. Look into what you can get from your company or your state government if you become a displaced worker. Keep an eye out for opportunities to build new skills and get training for available jobs if the resources are accessible.

  • Be flexible. Think about your skills and where you could apply them. There might be opportunities out there that you never thought of before, like freelance work or other in-between jobs you can take to get some income.

  • Look for training opportunities. There are tons of free and paid resources online to further your learning and bolster your skills in every industry. Take advantage of these skill-building opportunities and look for ways to make your resume stand out.

  • Update your resume. If you’ve been employed for awhile, the odds are that your resume is out of date. Take this time to update and perfect it so you can put your best foot forward when you apply to jobs. Bonus tip: create multiple versions of your resume tailored to specific jobs and highlight your particular skills and experience to really show off to recruiters.

  • Use your network. With online networking sites and easy online communication, connecting with your network and the professional networks of your friends and coworkers has never been easier. Tap into your connections and see if there are any opportunities for you to work for or learn from your network.

  • Practice for interviews. It can’t hurt to brush up on your interview skills and practice a few interviews. As you apply for jobs, you’re bound to get a few interview offers along the way, so it’s best to be prepared when they come.

  • Set up job alerts. Lots of companies and job boards allow you to get email alerts when new jobs open up, so look for places to sign up. Since you’ll be the first to know about new jobs, they can be a great way to get your application in early and get noticed.

  • Make looking for a job your full-time job. Enjoying your newfound free time is good, but so is finding a job. It can take more time than you think to apply for positions, so make sure you’re taking the time to submit multiple applications a day.

Displaced Workers FAQ

  1. Who is considered a displaced worker?

    An individual is considered a displaced worker if they have been fired or laid off, been notified that they will be laid off, are self-employed and out of work due to economic conditions or a natural disaster, or you’re dependent on a family member who’s been laid off or underemployed in the army.

    The specific conditions for displaced worker status change state by state, but these are the most common examples of individuals who qualify as displaced workers.

    In all examples, the displaced worker is not responsible for their job loss. Whether it be extreme economic conditions like we’ve all just lived through or a company merging with another, the layoffs have to do with the general economic climate rather than the performance of the employee.

  2. Does being a dislocated worker affect FAFSA?

    Yes, being a dislocated worker affects FAFSA. The FAFSA application includes a question about you/your parents dislocated worker status as a way to calculate your Expected Family Contribution (EFC). Being a dislocated worker lowers this number, which in turn increases how much federal aid you receive.

    You will still need to report both taxed and untaxed income, including unemployment benefits, on your application.

  3. What are displaced worker benefits?

    Displaced worker benefits include access to the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Dislocated Worker Program, which offers job training, workforce education, and employment programs.

    This WIOA also includes Rapid Response, which is used to help proactively respond to layoffs and plant closings by providing aid to businesses and their employees.

    There’s also the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) Program, which helps workers in struggling industries gain new skills and certifications that are in high demand now (and will continue to be in high demand in the future).

    Displaced workers are also eligible for up to 26 weeks of unemployment-insurance benefits, as well as any extended-benefits programs that are available during times of unemployment (like the COVID-era).

  4. Can a stay-at-home parent be considered a dislocated worker?

    Yes, a stay-at-home parent can be considered a dislocated worker, but is not automatically considered one. If you’re a stay-at-home parent who was self-employed but lost your job due to adverse economic conditions, you may qualify as a dislocated worker.

    Additionally, if your spouse is in the military and unemployed or underemployed, you may also qualify as a dislocated worker.

    Consult with your state’s unemployment office for more specific information, as this tends to be one of the conditions that changes quite a bit depending on your region.

How useful was this post?

Click on a star to rate it!

Average rating / 5. Vote count:

No votes so far! Be the first to rate this post.

Never miss an opportunity that’s right for you.


Amanda Covaleski

Amanda is a writer with experience in various industries, including travel, real estate, and career advice. After taking on internships and entry-level jobs, she is familiar with the job search process and landing that crucial first job. Included in her experience is work at an employer/intern matching startup where she marketed an intern database to employers and supported college interns looking for work experience.

Related posts

Topics: Formulas, Glossary