New claims for state unemployment benefits fell slightly last week but remained historically high as the coronavirus pandemic continued to damage Maine’s economy.

The state received about 2,700 new or reopened claims for state unemployment benefits, down slightly from 2,800 a week earlier. Still, the number remained far above the roughly 800 initial state claims filed a year ago.

The state also received about 500 initial claims filed for federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, up from 400 claims a week earlier. In total, roughly 3,400 Mainers filed an initial claim or reopened a previous claim last week. Claims often outnumber claimants because of overlap between state and federal jobless aid programs.

About 49,500 weekly certifications were filed last week for continuing jobless benefits in Maine, up from 48,300 claims a week earlier.

Maine usually sees increases in state unemployment claims this time of year as a result of seasonal layoffs that occur every winter, the Maine Department of Labor said. Some industries have seen higher-than-usual layoffs because of the pandemic.

Since March 15 of last year, the Labor Department has paid out over $1.8 billion in federal and state unemployment benefits, it said. It has handled roughly 233,000 initial state claims and 108,100 initial federal claims. There have been over 3.28 million weekly certifications filed.

Nationally, the number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits declined to 779,000 last week, a still-historically high total that shows a sizable number of people keep losing jobs to the viral pandemic, The Associated Press reported.

Last week’s total dropped from 812,000 the previous week, the U.S. Labor Department said Thursday, and is the lowest in two months, the AP reported. Still, it said before the virus erupted in the United States in March, weekly applications for jobless aid had never topped 700,000, even during the Great Recession.


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