FILE - ME shops, retail, stores, commerce 6-26-2021

The downtown area is seen June 26, 2021, in Saco, Maine.

(The Center Square) – New claims for unemployment benefits in Maine went up slightly last week, according to the U.S. Department of Labor's weekly report.

There were 588 new applications for state unemployment benefits filed for the week that ended Oct. 2 – up by 81 from the previous week, the federal agency reported on Thursday.

There were 69 new claims for federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a federal program created to provide benefits for those who didn't qualify for state unemployment. That's 11 fewer than the previous week, according to the report.

PUA and other federal unemployment programs created by Congress in response to the pandemic – including a $300 per week enhanced benefit – expired on Sept. 4.

But because unemployment claims are filed for the preceding week, many of the requests for PUA and other federal benefits were made before the programs expired.

Likewise, the labor department data only shows first-time unemployment claims that were filed for the previous week, not those that were successfully processed.

State labor officials attributed the slight uptick in first-time claims for state jobless benefits to seasonal layoffs that are typical for this time of year.

Meanwhile, continuing state unemployment claims – which lag behind a week – totaled 5,869 in the week ending Sept. 25. That's 907 less than the preceding week.

Maine has distributed more than $2.49 billion in state and federal jobless benefits to nearly 400,000 jobless workers during the pandemic, according to state data.

The state's unemployment rate remained steady at 4.9% in August, 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.

Nationally, there were 326,000 new claims filed in the week that ended Oct. 2, a decrease of 38,000 from the previous week, according to the labor department.

Continuing unemployment claims, which lag behind a week, dropped by 97,000 to more than 2.7 million nationally for the week that ended Sept. 25, the agency said.

More than 4.1 million Americans were still receiving state or federal jobless benefits in the week ending Sept. 18, the agency reported. That's more than 850,000 less than the previous week.