Virus Outbreak Maine

A woman wears a mask to protect against the spread of the coronavirus while looking at drying racks Sept. 9, 2020, outside a hardware store in Sanford, Maine.

(The Center Square) – New unemployment claims in Maine ticked up slightly last week, even as the state's labor market continues to rebound.

At least 1,518 new applications for state jobless benefits were filed for the week that ended March 27 – an increase of 68 claims from the previous week, according to the U.S. Department of Labor's weekly report.

There were 366 new claims last week for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a federally backed program that covers workers ineligible for regular unemployment benefits. That's an increase of 71 from the previous week.

Meanwhile, 14,528 continuing claims for state unemployment benefits – which lag behind a week but are viewed as a barometer of the unemployment situation – were filed in the week ending March 20, a decrease of 386 over the previous week.

The state has distributed more than $2 billion in state and federal jobless benefits to at least 357,200 jobless workers during the pandemic, according to state data.

The state's unadjusted unemployment rate stood at 5.6% in February, according to the latest figures released by 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, 719,000 new jobless claims were filed last week, an increase of about 61,000 claims from the previous week, according to the Labor Department.

Continuing claims dropped by 46,000 to about 3.7 million nationally for the week that ended March 20, the labor department said.

Many jobless workers in Maine and other states were buoyed by a $1.9 trillion relief bill, signed by President Joe Biden three weeks ago, that extended pandemic relief programs until September, including a $300 per week federal enhanced benefit.

Despite the gradually improving labor market, more than 18.2 million Americans were still receiving state or federal unemployment benefits in the week ending March 13.