Willis Ryder Arnold / Maine Public

Tens of thousands of Mainers who have lost their jobs because of the coronavirus pandemic are facing barriers in their efforts to access expanded unemployment benefits approved last month by the legislature.

Laura Amey says she has tried to call the helpline at the Maine Department of Labor 75 times in the last two weeks to find out why her application for unemployment doesn’t qualify. She is infuriated at automated messages that tell her to sned an email, explaining her problem or that no calls are accepted after 12:30.

The Maine Department of Labor has been struggling to handle huge numbers of applications for unemployment benefits because of the pandemic, and those numbers are expected to grow with the passage of a new federally-funded program.

The number of Mainers applying for unemployment jumped by more than 30 times last week, according to the Maine Department of Labor.

The State Labor Department says a significant number of people are filing for unemployment insurance due to COVID-19, and some are having difficulty connecting with the state because the online application is not designed for smartphone use.


This show will air from 1-3 pm as part of Maine Calling's special coverage of the impacts of COVID-19 on the people of Maine.

With businesses suffering or closing, and people losing their sources of income and livelihoods, what can be done? We speak with Maine's labor and economic leaders to learn how the state is trying to face the challenges of helping to keep workers and businesses afloat amidst the coronavirus emergency.

Five-thousand Mainers have filed unemployment claims just since Sunday, state labor officials say. Meanwhile, the Maine Legislature has moved to make it quicker and easier for people to get unemployment checks.

Maine's unemployment rate rose slightly in December, but continued a long stretch at very low levels.

AUGUSTA, Maine - Maine labor officials say the unemployment rate in the state remained low in November, and dipped by nearly a percentage point over the course of the year.

The July unemployment rate in the Portland-South Portland metro area dipped nearly half a percentage point, to 1.9%, the lowest jobless rate in years in any of Maine's three metro areas. That's according to preliminary figures from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, which also found low unemployment rates in the state's two other urban areas.

Unemployment rates fell during the spring in Maine's three major urban areas. That's according to figures out today from the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Unemployment in most of Maine stayed steady last month, at 3.5 percent. New numbers from the state's Department of Labor say Maine has also gained about 3,000 non-farm jobs in the last year, mostly in retail and manufacturing, and lost the most jobs in mining, logging, and construction. 

Unemployment in the Bangor area dipped slightly in March, while the jobless rates in Maine's two other metropolitan areas held steady.

That's according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.  The agency reports that Bangor's jobless rate went from 4 percent in February to 3.8 percent in March.  

The unemployment rates for Maine's other two metro areas were unchanged. Lewiston-Auburn unemployment was at 3.7 percent; Portland-South Portland's jobless rate held at 3 percent.

Unemployment in Maine's three major metropolitan areas fell in February.

AUGUSTA, Maine - Maine labor officials say unemployment has held steady in the early part of the year.

Now that they control the state Legislature, Democrats are out to undo a number of labor laws, including one that governs how earned-pay affects unemployment benefits.