(The Center Square) – New jobless claims in Maine ticked up again last week, even as the state wrestles with a hiring crunch with tens of thousands of job vacancies.
There were 1,614 new applications for state unemployment benefits filed for the week that ended June 5 – an increase of 238 from the previous week, according to the U.S. Department of Labor's weekly report.
There were 152 new claims last week for federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a rise of 65 claims over the preceding week, the federal agency reported.
Continuing state jobless claims – which lag behind a week but are viewed as a barometer of the unemployment situation – totalled 10,505 in the week ending May 29, a decline of 263 over the prior week.
Maine has distributed more than $2.9 billion in state and federal jobless benefits to about 370,000 jobless workers during the pandemic, according to state data.
The state's non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped slightly to 5.3% in April after adding 1,200 jobs that month, 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.
Meanwhile, Maine businesses are struggling to fill tens of thousands of jobs unfilled as the busy summer tourist season approaches.
Gov. Janet Mills has taken steps in recent weeks to lure workers back to their jobs amid a shortage of labor as the state eases COVID-19 restrictions and reopens its economy.
The state has reinstituted a work search requirement mandating that individuals receiving jobless benefits actively look for work and accept positions for which they are "reasonably qualified." Those who refuse to accept an offer can lose their unemployment benefits.
That's the lowest level for new claims since the week of March 14, 2020, the federal agency said.
Continuing claims dropped by 258,000 to about 3.49 million nationally for the week that ended May 29.
Despite the improving economic conditions, more than 15.3 million Americans were still receiving state or federal jobless benefits in the week ending May 22, the agency reported.