New claims for unemployment benefits remain at their highest level in Maine since the summer as parts of the economy struggle amid the continuing pandemic.

About 3,800 Mainers opened or reopened a state or federal benefit claim in the second week of January, according to the Maine Department of Labor. About 3,300 initial claims were filed for state unemployment benefits and another 1,000 were filed for federal benefits.

The four-week average of initial claims reached nearly 4,000, the highest point since mid-July.

“Maine typically sees increases in state unemployment claims this time of year due to seasonal layoffs that occur every winter, for example in retail trade, accommodations and food services, construction, and administrative and support services industries,” the department said. “Some of these industries have seen increased impact due to COVID-19.”

More than 49,000 continuing jobless claims were filed last week in Maine, and the state’s four-week average for continuing claims has grown steadily since late November.

Nationally, fewer Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, lowering claims to 900,000, still a historically high level that points to further job cuts in a raging pandemic, The Associated Press reported.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s report Thursday underscored that President Biden has inherited an economy that faltered this winter as virus cases spiked, cold weather restricted dining and federal rescue aid expired, the AP said. The government said that 5.1 million Americans are continuing to receive state jobless benefits, down from 5.2 million in the previous week. That signals that fewer people who are out of work are finding jobs.


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