WASHINGTON — The number of initial U.S. claims for unemployment benefits fell last week by 14,000 claims to 385,000 – more evidence that the economy and the job market are rebounding briskly from the coronavirus recession. In Maine, initial claims fell by about 100 from a week earlier to 900 claims.

The U.S. Labor Department reported Thursday that unemployment claims – a proxy for layoffs – dropped last week from a revised 399,000 the week before as companies are posting job openings – a record 9.2 million in May – faster than workers are showing up to fill them. The jobless applications have mostly fallen steadily since topping 900,000 in early January. Still, they remain high by historic levels: Before the pandemic slammed the United States in March 2020, they were coming in at around 220,000 a week.

In Maine, initial claims filed for state and federal jobless benefits fell by about 100 claims to 900 last week, according to the Maine Department of Labor. The number of individuals filing a new claim or reopening a previous claim decreased to 1,000 from about 1,200 the previous week.

Last week’s total of 800 initial state claims was lower than any prior week during the pandemic, but it remained about 20 percent higher than the 660 claims filed during the week ending Aug. 4, 2019.

In addition to claims for state benefits, about 100 new claims for federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance were filed by Mainers last week.

Continuing weekly claims, an indicator of prolonged unemployment, held steady from the previous week at 32,400 claims in Maine.

Since cratering in the spring of 2020, the U.S. economy has bounded back as the rollout of vaccines encourages businesses to reopen or return to normal operating hours and consumers to return to shops, restaurants and bars. The United States has been adding more than 540,000 jobs a month this year, and the Labor Department’s July jobs report out Friday is expected to show it tacked on nearly 863,000 more last month, according to a survey of economists by the data firm FactSet.

The U.S. economy is still 6.8 million jobs short of where it stood in February 2020.

Many states have responded to business complaints of a labor shortage by ending expanded federal unemployment benefits meant to ease financial strains from the health crisis, including an extra $300 a week on top of traditional state benefits. The federal benefits are scheduled to expire nationwide Sept. 6.


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