PORTLAND (AP) – Maine is seeing a 54 percent increase in new unemployment claims compared with a year ago, and one economist says the state in for a “significant period of deterioration.”

Charles Colgan, chairman of Maine’s economic forecasting committee, says that period of deterioration will continue into the beginning of the new year.

For the week of Oct. 25, the number of new unemployment claims hit 1,638. That’s an increase of 303 from the week before and 575 from the same week last year.

The state jobless rate reached 5.6 percent in September, compared with 4.9 percent a year earlier. That’s better than the national unemployment rate in September of 6.1 percent. Economists believe the national unemployment rate could reach 8 percent or higher.

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