FILE - NH unemployment 4-27-2020

Two people visit a temporary worker employment business April 27, 2020, in Manchester, New Hampshire.

(The Center Square) – First-time claims for unemployment benefits in New Hampshire are continuing to decline, according to the U.S. Department of Labor's weekly report.

There were 383 new applications for state unemployment benefits filed for the week that ended Nov. 6, the federal agency reported on Thursday.  That's 71 more newly filed claims than the previous week.

Continuing state unemployment claims – which lag behind a week – totaled 2,405 in the week ending Oct. 30, a decrease of 210 over the previous week.

The state also reported 77 new claims last week for federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a federal program that expired two months ago. That's 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, but jobless workers are still filing for the benefits.

To be sure, 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 unemployment rate dropped below 3% in September – one of the lowest rates in the nation – according to New Hampshire Employment Security.

Employers are still struggling to find workers amid a prolonged hiring crunch that economists say is holding back growth of the pandemic-battered economy.

Many businesses had hoped that the end of the federal unemployment programs would result in a boost in hiring, but that doesn't appear to have happened.

Nationally, initial filings for unemployment insurance fell to another pandemic-era low last week in another sign of the improving job market. 

There were 276,000 new jobless claims filed during the week that ended Nov. 6, a decrease of 4,000 from the previous week, according to the U.S. Labor Department. That's the lowest level for initial claims since March 14, 2020, the Labor Department said Thursday.

Continuing unemployment claims, which lag behind a week, dropped by 59,000 to about 2.1 million nationally for the week that ended Oct. 30, the agency said.

Overall, more than 2.5 million Americans were still receiving state or federal jobless benefits in the week ending Oct. 23, according to the weekly report.