Continuing jobless claims in Maine hit their lowest point last week since mid-March, but more than 1,000 residents filed new claims as layoffs continued in the state.

The state received roughly 64,100 weekly federal and state unemployment insurance claims in the third week of August, a drop of about 6,600 from the week before, the Maine Department of Labor reported Thursday.

About 2,400 initial jobless claims were filed by a total of roughly 1,300 Mainers last week, the department reported. The number of claims exceeds the number of claimants because of overlap between state and federal jobless aid programs.

The sharp decline in the number of people filing weekly claims may be a result of work search requirements reinstated two weeks ago after a months-long hiatus because of the coronavirus pandemic.

To continue receiving unemployment benefits, workers who are no longer connected to their former employer and expecting to be rehired have to prove they are trying to obtain work, such as by applying or interviewing for a job, or attending an in-person or virtual job fair or training.

It is unclear whether some people have lost benefits because they have refused an offer of work. A labor department spokeswoman did not respond to an email Thursday asking how many workers have lost unemployment benefits because they declined a job offer, or how many businesses have reported workers to the state for not returning to work when asked.


Total unemployment claims in Maine remain at their highest point in at least a decade as businesses in the state grapple with the economic consequences of the pandemic. Initial state claims filed last week were more than double the number filed during the same week of 2019.

Nationwide, more than 1 million claims for state unemployment benefits were filed last week, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

The state this week was approved for a federal grant to provide $300 more per week in unemployment benefits to each claimant. The grant, administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, is meant to partially replace a $600-per-week added federal benefit that expired at the end of July.

Maine’s labor department will receive $73.5 million to pay for three weeks of benefits, retroactive to the week ending Aug. 1, and can request additional funding after that. But it may take three weeks to implement a system to process the payments, and the $44 billion emergency relief fund could last for as little as five weeks, the department has said.

At least 1,200 Mainers receiving unemployment benefits will be ineligible for the new federal aid because they receive less than $100 a week in unemployment, a qualifying threshold for the program. It also requires recipients to have lost employment because of the pandemic, a condition the state labor department does not currently ask applicants about.

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