The number of people filing new unemployment claims in Maine stayed flat in late March as the state allowed businesses to fully reopen and expanded occupancy limits.

About 2,400 Mainers filed new unemployment claims or reopened previous claims last week, according to the Maine Department of Labor. About 1,600 initial claims were filed for state benefits and 400 for federal benefits. The number of claimants exceeded the number of claims because some Mainers reopened earlier claims.

The number of new claims is virtually unchanged from the week prior, but is down from more than 3,000 new claims a week over the winter. The weekly number of new claims is still more than four times what it was on the same week in 2019.

About 47,000 continued claims were filed last week in Maine, only slightly lower than the total number of such claims at the beginning of March.

High unemployment numbers continue as state government lifts some of the final business restrictions held over from a pandemic lockdown last year. Bars and tasting rooms were allowed to reopen for indoor service last week.

Limits on indoor gatherings were increased to 50 percent capacity last week and will go up to 75 percent capacity by the end of May under a plan from Gov. Janet Mills. There can now be outdoor gatherings at 75 percent capacity, which will increase to full capacity by May 24.

Nationally, the number of initial jobless claims filed last week rose by 61,000 from the previous week to 719,000, signaling that many employers are still cutting jobs even as more businesses reopen, vaccines are increasingly administered and federal aid spreads through the economy, the Associated Press reported.

The U.S. Labor Department said Thursday that the number of claims increased from 684,000 the week before, according to AP. Though the pace of applications has dropped sharply since early this year, they remain high by historical standards, it said. Before the pandemic flattened the economy a year ago, jobless claims typically ran below 220,000 a week.

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