New claims for unemployment insurance are holding steady in Maine as it and other states begin putting new federal jobless benefits into place.

About 2,600 people filed new benefit claims or reopened previous claims last week, the Maine Department of Labor reported Thursday. That number included about 1,900 claims for state benefits and 300 federal claims, it said.

The number of people filing new claims last week was higher than the 2,000 recorded in the first week of March.

New claims have fallen from a high of more than 4,000 a week earlier this year. The four-week claims average is on par with mid-November, according to department figures.

Maine recorded about 49,000 continuing claims for those still unemployed and receiving benefits. That number has remained almost the same for nearly two months.

The U.S. Department of Labor this week issued guidance to state unemployment systems to implement benefits extended under President Biden’s American Rescue Plan Act, signed into law last week.


Under the new law, federal unemployment aid programs for those who either don’t qualify for state aid or have exhausted their state benefits will be extended through early September as of this week. Those two programs were created by the federal CARES Act in response to the coronavirus pandemic nearly a year ago.

The Rescue Plan also includes a $300-per-week supplemental federal payment to unemployed Americans. That benefit also begins this week and runs through early September.

Nationally, the number of Americans seeking unemployment benefits rose last week to 770,000, a sign that layoffs remain high even as much of the U.S. economy is steadily recovering from the coronavirus recession, The Associated Press reported.

Thursday’s report from the U.S. Labor Department showed that jobless claims climbed from 725,000 the week before, according to the AP. The numbers have dropped sharply since the depths of the recession last spring but still show that employers in some industries continue to lay off workers.

Before the pandemic struck, applications for unemployment aid had never topped 700,000 in any one week.

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