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Maine First-Time Unemployment Claims Fall For Third Straight Week, Suggesting Fewer Layoffs

Virus Outbreak
Robert F. Bukaty
Harry Patel power-washes the exterior of the Wells Moody Motel, Wednesday, May 26, 2021, in Wells, Maine. Lodging operators are preparing for the upcoming summer season with hopes of getting back to normal after last year's drop in business due top the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Maine Department of Labor Thursday reported first-time claims for state unemployment insurance benefits fell by 63 to 1,169. It was the third, consecutive, weekly decline. It suggests fewer Mainers are facing layoffs as Maine's economy continues its recovery from last year's pandemic-induced recession.

The first-time claim numbers still aren't all the way back to pre-pandemic levels, but they're getting close. Last week's number was less than a third of the number of last January, when unemployment claims peaked in the fall-winter COVID surge. And it's nothing like the April 2020 spike during the pandemic economic shutdown. In one week, nearly 31,000 people filed for benefits overwhelming the state's system.

Another 63 people filed first-time claims last week for a federally funded program that provides benefits to freelance workers, gig economy workers, and other who might not qualify for state benefits. But the Maine Department of Labor points out that those federal unemployment benefits will end Sept. 4.

In a release, the department urges Mainers to take advantage of services and hiring events available through the state-funded CareerCenter to help find new work.