Thousands of new unemployment claims continue to be filed in Maine as the number of people collecting jobless benefits remains at historic levels.

About 2,550 individuals filed initial unemployment insurance claims or reopened previously discontinued claims last week, according to the Maine Department of Labor. That number is down slightly from 2,900 residents the previous week.

The vast majority of initial claims filed last week, about 2,000, were under the state unemployment insurance program, which means the claimants previously worked for local employers that pay into the state system. An additional 300 initial claims were filed under a federal system established during the coronavirus pandemic for contractors, self-employed workers and others who don’t qualify for state benefits.

Almost 42,000 continued claims for state and federal jobless benefits were filed last week, down from 42,950 claims the previous week, according to the department. About one-third of last week’s claims – 13,900 – were for a federal program that extends regular unemployment benefits for an additional 13 weeks, and 2,200 were for state extended benefits, which add an additional 13 weeks after federal extended benefits expire.

Maine’s extended benefits program expired on Nov. 14 because it was no longer authorized under a state statute that preserves benefits extension for periods of high state unemployment.

The federal extended benefits program expires near the end of December.

Nationally, the number of unemployment aid applications filed rose last week to 742,000, the first increase in five weeks and a sign that the resurgent viral outbreak is likely slowing the economy and forcing more companies to cut jobs, The Associated Press reported.

The U.S. Labor Department’s report Thursday showed that applications for benefits rose from 711,000 in the previous week, according to the AP. Claims had soared to 6.9 million in March when the pandemic first intensified. Before the pandemic, applications typically hovered around 225,000 a week.


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