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Maine’s new jobless claims edge up slightly

New unemployment claims in Maine edged up slightly last week, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s weekly report.

There were 1,345 new applications for state jobless benefits filed for the week that ended May 29 – an increase of 342 from the previous week, the federal agency reported.

Meanwhile, there were 87 new claims last week for federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a decline of 121 claims over the preceding week. 

Continuing state jobless claims – which lag behind a week but are viewed as a barometer of the unemployment situation – totalled 10,398 in the week ending May 22, a decline of 1,294 over the prior week. 

Maine has distributed more than $2.9 billion in state and federal jobless benefits to about 370,000 jobless workers during the pandemic, according to state data.

The state’s non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped slightly to 5.3% in April after adding 1,200 jobs that month, according to the Maine Department of Labor.

That’s down from a high of 9.1% last April but still higher than the state’s average 3% unemployment rate throughout 2019.

Like most states, Maine is facing a hiring crunch with tens of thousands of jobs unfilled as the busy summer tourist season approaches.

Gov. Janet Mills has taken steps in recent weeks to lure workers back to their jobs amid a shortage of labor as the state eases COVID-19 restrictions and reopens its economy.

The state has re-instituted a work search requirement mandating that individuals receiving jobless benefits actively look for work and accept positions for which they are “reasonably qualified.” A refusal to accept a job offer will be “grounds for disqualifying a person for benefits,” according to the Maine Department of Labor. 

The labor department said it is asking employers to report workers who have refused to return to their jobs. Those that refuse could lose their unemployment benefits.

Nationally, 385,000 new jobless claims were filed in the week that ended May 29, a decrease of 22,000 claims from the previous week, according to the Labor Department. 

That’s the lowest level for new claims since the week of March 14, 2020, the federal agency said.

Continuing claims increased by 169,000 to about 3.7 million nationally for the week that ended May 22.

Despite the improving economic conditions, more than 15.4 million Americans were still receiving state or federal jobless benefits in the week ending May 15, the agency reported.

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