WASHINGTON — New jobless claims declined significantly last week in Maine as U.S. claims rose slightly even while the economy and the job market appear to be rebounding from the coronavirus recession with sustained energy.

Thursday’s report from the U.S. Department of Labor showed that U.S. jobless claims increased by 2,000 from the previous week to 373,000. Weekly applications, which generally track the pace of layoffs, have fallen steadily this year from more than 900,000 at the start of the year.

In Maine, initial claims for state and federal jobless benefits fell by nearly 40 percent to about 1,300 last week from 2,100 the previous week. The number of individuals filing a new claim or reopening a previous claim decreased to 1,400 from about 1,600 the previous week.

Last week’s total of 1,200 initial state claims was slightly higher in Maine than during late summer 2020, which reached a pandemic low of about 1,100 state claims during the week ending Aug. 8. In addition to claims for state benefits, about 100 new claims for federal jobless benefits were filed by Mainers last week.

Continuing weekly claims continued to decline in Maine last week, falling by about 1,350 claims from a week earlier to 34,300.

The rollout of vaccinations is driving a potent economic recovery as businesses reopen, employers struggle to fill jobs and consumers emerge from months of lockdown to travel, shop and spend at restaurants, bars, retailers and entertainment venues.


In the first three months of the year, the government has estimated, the economy expanded at a brisk 6.4 percent annual rate. In the April-June quarter, the annual rate is thought to have reached a sizzling 10 percent. And for all of 2021, the Congressional Budget Office has projected that growth will amount to 6.7 percent. That would be the fastest calendar-year expansion since 1984.

The economy is recovering so quickly that many companies can’t find workers fast enough to meet their increased customer demand. On Wednesday, the government said that U.S. employers posted 9.21 million jobs in May, the most since record-keeping began in 2000.

And in June, employers added a strong 850,000 jobs, and hourly pay rose a solid 3.6 percent compared with a year ago – faster than the pre-pandemic annual pace and a sign that companies are being compelled to pay more to attract and keep workers.

Still, the nation remains 6.8 million jobs short of the level it had in February 2020, just before the coronavirus pandemic tore through the economy and eliminated tens of millions of jobs. And weekly applications for unemployment benefits, though down sharply from earlier peaks, are still comparatively high: Before the pandemic, they were typically coming in at only around 220,000 a week.

The total number of Americans receiving jobless aid, including supplemental federal checks that were intended to provide relief during the pandemic recession, amounted to 14.2 million people during the week of June 19, down from 33.2 million a year earlier.

Many states, though, have dropped the federal aid, responding to complaints that the generous benefits were discouraging some of the unemployed from seeking work: A total of 26 states plan to end the $300-a-week federal benefit before it ends nationally on Sept. 6. Most of those states will also cut off federal assistance to the self-employed, gig workers and people who have been out of work for more than six months.

Still, many factors other than the enhanced federal jobless benefits are thought to have contributed to the shortage of people seeking work again: Difficulty arranging or affording child care, lingering fears of COVID-19, early retirements by older workers, a slowdown in immigration and a decision by some people to seek new careers rather than return to their old jobs.

AP Economics Writer Christopher Rugaber contributed to this report.

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