About 2,000 Mainers filed new claims for unemployment aid last week, down slightly from a week earlier but still twice as many as during the same week in 2019.

Initial and recurring weekly jobless claims continued to decline gradually last week but remained historically high as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, the Maine Department of Labor reported Thursday.

Initial claims for state and federal benefits remained steady at about 2,400, although the actual number of Mainers who filed claims decreased by about 150 from 2,150 the previous week. The number of claims often exceeds the number of claimants because of overlap between state and federal aid programs.

About 50,170 continuing unemployment claims were filed last week, down slightly from 52,150 the previous week. That figure includes state benefits, federal benefits to those who do not qualify for state benefits, and extended benefits for those whose regular eligibility period has expired.

Between March 15 and Oct. 10, the state labor department paid out over $1.6 billion in federal and state unemployment benefits, it said. The department has handled roughly 192,000 initial claims for the state unemployment program and 94,400 initial claims for the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program. There have been nearly 2.6 million continuing claims filed.

Nationally, the number of initial jobless claims filed last week rose to 898,000, and about 10 million continuing claims were filed, evidence that layoffs remain a hindrance to the economy’s recovery from the pandemic recession that erupted seven months ago, The Associated Press reported.

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