Continuing weekly claims for unemployment benefits in Maine, an indicator of sustained joblessness, declined again last week, reaching their lowest level in nearly half a year.

State and federal claims for weekly jobless aid, including extended benefits, fell to around 54,900 in the third week of September, about 32 percent lower than the number of claims filed a month ago and down from 56,700 claims the previous week.

 

About 27,700 continued claims, also known as weekly certifications, were filed last week for state unemployment, with another 17,700 weekly certifications filed under the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, the labor department reported. In addition, about 8,600 weekly certifications were filed for the federal Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program and 900 weekly certifications were filed for the state Extended Benefits program.

Weekly certifications must be filed by claimants every week in order to continue to receive unemployment benefits.

Even as continuing claims fall, thousands of Mainers are filing new claims for unemployment aid. About 2,200 people filed federal and state unemployment claims last week, according to the Maine Department of Labor, down slightly from 2,300 Mainers the previous week.

The number of initial claims filed last week in Maine was 2,600 – more than the number of people who filed, with the rest attributed to overlap between state and federal aid programs. The number of initial claims filed was up slightly from 2,400 the previous week, even though the actual number of claimants decreased.

 

Between March 15 and Sept. 19, the labor department paid out over $1.55 billion in federal and state unemployment benefits, it said. The state’s unemployment trust fund balance had been replenished to pre-pandemic levels as of July, the most recent month available, thanks in part to a $270 million infusion of CARES Act funds from the Mills administration.

The fund balance was at $505.5 million as of July 31, up from a pandemic low of $325.1 million at the end of May, according to the labor department.

The Department has handled approximately 187,200 initial claims for the state unemployment program and 91,700 initial claims for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program. There have been over 2.4 million weekly certifications filed.

Nationally, the number of people seeking U.S. unemployment aid rose slightly last week to 870,000, a historically high figure that shows that the viral pandemic is still squeezing restaurants, airlines, hotels and many other businesses six months after it first erupted, The Associated Press reported.

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