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Business and Economy

Maine jobless claims fall to the lowest level in two years

Virus Outbreak Unemployment New Hampshire
Charles Krupa
A woman walks away from a locked door at the New Hampshire Employee Security center, which handles unemployment claims, in Manchester, N.H., Thursday, April 16, 2020. Due to the virus outbreak, a note on the office door requested that all claims be handled remotely either on the phone or online.

The Maine Department of Labor says the number of people collecting state unemployment benefits has fallen to a level not seen in nearly two years. There were just 3,400 people who actually collected benefits in the week ending last Saturday. The last time so few people collected benefits was November of 2019.

Only 591 people filed first-time claims for benefits last week, down about 200 from the previous week. That's a sign fewer people are being laid off. Some people may lose their jobs as a result of vaccine mandates, but the Labor Department warns such individuals won't qualify for unemployment benefits.

Through the end of August, the unemployment trust fund was still below it's pre-pandemic level. But Governor Janet Mills announced this week she's adding $80 million to the fund as part of the nearly $1 billion Maine Jobs and Recovery Plan. Maine State Chamber of Commerce president Dana Connors said that will stave off a nearly 60 percent increase in worker's comp taxes.