New unemployment insurance claims fell for the fifth straight week at the beginning of February.

About 2,800 Maine residents filed new claims for unemployment aid last week, according to the Maine Department of Labor.

New claims have come down from a high of more 3,900 in the beginning of January. But weekly initial claims are still as high as they were last summer and are more than double what they were at the same time last year. Nearly 50,000 claims were filed for continued unemployment insurance, the labor department said.

The department reported sending about 165,000 tax forms to people who received unemployment insurance payments in 2020. According to those figures, about one in four Maine workers received unemployment benefits at some point last year.

In 2019, the department sent out only 30,000 tax forms, it reported.

Nationally, the number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits fell slightly last week to 793,000, evidence that job cuts remain high despite a substantial decline in new viral infections, the Associated Press reported.

Last week’s total declined from 812,000 the previous week, the U.S. Labor Department said Thursday. That figure was revised higher from the previously reported figure of 779,000, according to AP. 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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