FILE - Virus Outbreak Maine

A sign at the entrance to a Starbucks coffee shop announces an earlier-than-usual closing time due to a staffing shortage as the COVID pandemic continues to cause labor problems, Thursday, Jan. 6, 2021, in South Portland, Maine. 

(The Center Square) – Claims for jobless benefits in Maine increased slightly last week, according to the U.S. Department of Labor's weekly report.

There were 1,434 new applications for state unemployment benefits filed for the week that ended Jan.1, the agency reported on Thursday. That's 236 more than in the previous week.

Meanwhile, continuing state jobless claims – which lag behind a week – totaled 6,984 in the week ending Dec. 25. That's 911 more than in the previous week.

Another eight new jobless claims were filed for the federal Extended Benefits program, which covers unemployed workers who've tapped out their regular state unemployment benefits. 

The extended benefits are one of three federal unemployment programs created by Congress in response to the pandemic. While the programs expired on Sept. 4, jobless workers are still filing claims for benefits.

Additionally, the Labor Department's weekly report only shows first-time unemployment claims that were filed for the previous week, not those that were successfully processed.

Maine labor officials say the ongoing impact of the pandemic has disrupted normal seasonal buildup and layoff patterns in some sectors of the economy.

But the state has also seen an exodus of health care workers over vaccine mandates, and is battling a surge of COVID-19 infections that continue to impact many businesses. 

The state 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.

Maine's unemployment rate remained largely unchanged at 4.9% in October, according to the Maine Department of Labor.

Nationally, new unemployment claims increased by 7,000 to 207,000 in the week that ended Jan. 1, according to the U.S. Labor Department.  

Continuing jobless claims, which lag behind a week, dropped nationally by 36,000 to about 1.75 million for the week that ended Dec. 25, the agency said.

Overall, more than 1.72 million Americans were receiving unemployment benefits in the week ending Dec. 18, according to the report.