The federal tax which induced the states to enact unemployment compensation laws set a pattern of coverage which the states were under pressure to meet, but which they were wholly free to exceed. With notable exceptions, state coverage is shaped to conform with federal law. In this matter, indeed, federal leadership is so far accepted that the charge of federal "dictation" has not, as it has in other aspects of unemployment compensation, prevented some expansion of the system by federal initiative.
Coverage of the Federal Unemployment Tax Act starts with the concept of "employment" as the determinant of tax liability, and then proceeds to carve out and exclude a number of particular kinds of employment.' State laws follow the same general pattern, with the important exception that many of them have undertaken to give by statute a broader scope to the underlying concept than usually attaches to the word "employment." A majority of the states have limited, and a few have rejected altogether, the federal exclusion of small firms; here and there states have extended coverage into other areas excluded from the federal law, but more often than not they have copied these federal exclusions, in many cases substantially verbatim.
Alanson W. Wilcox,
The Coverage of Unemployment Compensation Laws,
8 Vanderbilt Law Review
Available at: https://scholarship.law.vanderbilt.edu/vlr/vol8/iss2/4