FILE - New Hampshire downtown

A man carries boxes March 23, 2018, after leaving a store in downtown Exeter, New Hampshire.

(The Center Square) – First-time unemployment claims in New Hampshire dropped last week, according to the U.S. Department of Labor's weekly report.

There were 360 new applications for state jobless benefits filed for the week that ended Oct. 9 – 57 fewer claims than the previous week, the federal agency reported on Thursday.

Meanwhile, continuing state unemployment claims – which lag behind a week and are considered a barometer of the overall labor situation – totaled 2,712 in the week ending Oct. 2, a decrease of 293 over the previous week.

The state reported 29 new claims for federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance for the week of Oct. 9, six more 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. The Labor Department data only shows first-time unemployment claims that were filed for the previous week, not those that were successfully processed.

The state has distributed more than $1.8 billion in federal and state unemployment benefits to workers since March 2020, when the COVID-19 outbreak began.

New Hampshire's jobless rate went up slightly to 3% in August – but is still one of the lowest rates in the nation, according to the New Hampshire Employment Security.

Still, employers in New Hampshire and elsewhere are struggling to find workers amid a prolonged hiring crunch that economists say is holding back growth of the pandemic-battered economy.

Nationally, first-time unemployment claims also declined last week with businesses rehiring workers ahead of the fall and winter months

There were 293,000 new jobless claims filed during the week that ended Oct. 9, a decrease of 36,000 from the previous week, according to the labor department.

Continuing unemployment claims, which lag behind a week, dropped by 134,000 to more than 2.59 million nationally for the week that ended Oct. 2, the agency said.

More than 3.6 million Americans were still receiving state or federal jobless benefits in the week ending Sept. 25, the agency reported. That's more than 520,000 less than the preceding week.