AUGUSTA – Initial claims for unemployment compensation totaled 11,560 in the week ending April 18, according to the Maine Dept. of Labor.
This is the lowest number of initial claims in the last five weeks, but the level remains historically high.
Continued claims for the week totaled 66,470, the highest number on record and more than twice the peak number in early 2009 during the last recession. Continued claims are up from 55,700 the prior week.
According to the DOL, $73.3 million in unemployment benefits was paid out during the week ending April 18. This included retroactive payments of the weekly additional $600 created by the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation program.
“While the number of new weekly unemployment claims has begun to slow down, there is no question that Maine people and small businesses are continuing to face significant economic hardship because of the coronavirus,” Commissioner Laura Fortman said, in an April 23 news release. “We expect more claims to be filed in the coming weeks and are working hard to implement new federal unemployment programs as quickly as possible to ensure every eligible Maine person receives the benefits they deserve.”
The largest number of initial claims during this five-week period were from the food services and lodging, healthcare and social assistance, retail trade, manufacturing, and entertainment and recreation sectors. Those sectors combined have accounted for 81 percent of initial claims for which the industry is identified.
In the five weeks from March 15 through April 18, initial claims totaled 101,100, which matched the total for the previous 135 weeks (August 12, 2017 to March 14, 2020). Data on initial and continued claims, benefits paid, contributions received, the balance of the unemployment insurance trust fund, as well as other information, is available at https://www.maine.gov/labor/cwri/ui.html.
The Department of Labor recommends that people file their claims online with a computer as opposed to a smartphone and do so in the evening when internet traffic is less. The Department has implemented an alphabetical call in schedule to help reduce phone line congestion as the Department ramps up its capacity to receive and process claims. Last names beginning with A-H should call on Monday, I-Q on Tuesday; and R-Z on Wednesday. Thursday and Friday are left unassigned for those who miss their alphabetical day or need to call at that time.
As the Department continues to expand the number of people taking calls, the call-in hours have been extended to 8 a.m. - 3 p.m. Those who are unable to connect with a claims representative by calling 1-800-593-7660 before 3 p.m. Monday through Friday should submit a message at www.maine.gov/labor/contact.
The Department of Labor continues to implement solutions to the challenges created by the sudden and unprecedented levels of questions and claims to meet the needs of Maine people. Claims staff are working over the weekend to process applications and are contacting claimants who have errors on their applications. The department has also contracted with a Maine-based center to provide first level claims assistance. Starting this week, 100 people are answering calls, up from 14 a month ago. The online unemployment system, which Maine implemented a few years ago, is performing as designed and is available 24/7.
Claims data is released each Thursday at 8:30 a.m.
For more information and resources, visit the Department’s COVID-19 page: https://www.maine.gov/labor/covid19/
Follow the Maine Department of Labor on Facebook @MElabor and Twitter @maine_labor.