Continuing weekly unemployment claims in Maine fell sharply last week to 56,700 claims, a decline of more than 14 percent from the previous week.

Mainers last week filed 29,800 continuing claims for state benefits and 26,900 claims for federal benefits, the state Department of Labor reported Thursday. The total was down about 9,300 claims from the previous week, it said.

The state also announced Thursday that work search requirements will resume Oct. 4 for all claimants except those in quarantine for potential COVID-19 exposure. Currently, those who are self-employed or still connected to their former employer and expecting to be rehired are not required to search for work.

 

Labor Department spokesperson Jessica Picard said it isn’t clear why continuing claims, also known as weekly certifications, fell by such a significant amount. She said the state will have a clearer picture of whether recent decreases in jobless claims are a direct result of more Mainers re-entering the workforce when the state’s August unemployment rate is announced Friday.

“Claimants are not required to inform the department about why they may have stopped filing weekly certifications,” Picard said via email. “There could be several reasons for why there are fewer weekly claims, such as people going back to work, the continued cancellation of fraudulent claims, (or) fluctuations in individuals filing multiple weekly certifications in a given week.”

Initial unemployment claims declined slightly last week in Maine to 2,400 from 2,800 the previous week. A total of 2,300 Mainers filed initial claims last week, lower than the number of claims because of overlap between state and federal benefits programs.

 

Between March 15 and Sept. 12, the Maine Department of Labor has paid out over $1.5 billion in federal and state unemployment benefits, it said Thursday.

The department has handled roughly 185,800 initial claims for the state unemployment program and 90,400 initial claims for the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance  program, it said. There have been over 2.3 million weekly certifications filed in Maine.

The department said it has finished issuing payments for the federal Lost Wages Assistance program, which provided an additional $300 a week to eligible Mainers for the weeks ending Aug. 1 through Sept. 5. All states approved for the funding received funds to cover those six weeks, and then the program ended, it said.

The department issued the first round of payments, covering the weeks ending Aug. 1, 8 and 15, the night of Sept. 11. The second round of payments, covering the weeks ending Aug. 22, Aug. 29 and Sept. 5, were issued Wednesday night.

Nationally, the number of claims for unemployment benefits fell last week to 860,000, a historically high figure that reflects economic damage from the coronavirus outbreak, The Associated Press reported..

The U.S. Department of Labor said Thursday that U.S. jobless claims fell by 33,000 from the previous week and that 12.6 million Americans are collecting traditional unemployment benefits, compared with just 1.7 million a year ago.

Before the pandemic hit the economy, the number of jobless claims had never exceeded 700,000 in a week, even during the depths of the 2007-2009 Great Recession.


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