The number of Mainers filing new unemployment claims or reopening previous claims increased to about 2,500 last week from 1,800 the previous week, while tens of thousands more applied for continuing jobless benefits.

Maine received 1,700 initial claims for state unemployment benefits and about 470 claims for federal jobless aid, the state Department of Labor reported Thursday.

The department received more than 44,000 continuing claims for jobless benefits under federal and state programs, as well as extended benefits for those who have exhausted their regular benefits. That number was down slightly from 46,400 the previous week.

About 12,900 continued claims were filed last week for state unemployment aid, along with 15,100 under the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program. In addition, about 14,400 continuing claims were filed for the federal Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program and 1,650 weekly certifications were filed for the state Extended Benefits program.

Continuing claims must be filed each week in order to continue to receive unemployment benefits. The state Extended Benefits program provides up to 13 weeks of unemployment benefits to those who have exhausted both their state unemployment insurance and then federal pandemic emergency compensation.

The Labor Department said that between March 15 and Oct. 31, it paid out over $1.6 billion in federal and state unemployment benefits. It handled roughly 196,500 initial claims for the state unemployment program and 96,100 initial claims for the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program. There have been over 2.7 million continuing claims filed, the department said.

Nationally, the number of initial unemployment claims filed last week fell slightly to 751,000, a still-historically high level that shows many employers continue to cut jobs in the face of the accelerating pandemic, The Associated Press reported.

A surge in viral cases and Congress’ failure so far to provide more aid for struggling individuals and businesses are threatening to deepen Americans’ economic pain, according to the AP. Eight months after the pandemic flattened the economy, weekly jobless claims still point to a stream of layoffs, it said.

Before the virus struck in March, the weekly figure had remained below 300,000 for more than five straight years.

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