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Unemployment claims continue historic highs

Apr 09, 2020
Photo by: Stephen Betts Initial claims for unemployment benefits in Maine sets a record high for the third consecutive week.

Augusta — Initial claims for unemployment compensation throughout Maine were approximately 30,900 in the week ending April 4, setting another unenviable record as job losses mounted from the COVID-19 business closures.

For the third consecutive week, the number of initial claims shattered previous records. The previous week saw initial claims of 23,800 statewide and the week before was 21,500.

The week before that — prior to COVID-19 closures — there had been only 630 initial claims. A year ago, claims averaged 800 for the week.

"The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has caused significant economic hardship for Maine people and job losses across the state, particularly in the food services and lodging, health care and social assistance, retail trade, manufacturing, and entertainment and recreation sectors," the Maine Department of Labor stated in a news release April 9.

“The over 76,000 initial claims filed over the past three weeks are a significant increase from 2019, when there were approximately 35,000 initial claims filed over the course of the entire year,” Commissioner Laura Fortman said in the release.

“There are an unprecedented number of claims being filed, and staff continue to work tirelessly to process claims as quickly as possible."

The state Labor Department reported that last week more than $10 million in benefits were distributed to laid-off Maine workers.

The Department of Labor recommends people file claims online with a computer as opposed to a smartphone, and do so in the evening when internet traffic is less.

To address high claims volume starting this week, those seeking to file for unemployment by calling the 800 number should use the following schedule:

--Last names beginning with A through H should call Monday.

--Last names beginning with I through Q Tuesday.

--Last names beginning with R through Z Wednesday.

--Thursday and Friday are left unassigned for those who miss their alphabetical day or need to call at that time.

Those unable to connect with a representative at the times above, call 1-800-593-7660 before 12:15 p.m., Monday through Friday, should submit a message at

The Department of Labor is implementing 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 contacting claimants who have errors on their applications, CareerCenter staff can reset passwords and handle questions via Live Chat and the department hired new staff and brought back retirees.

The online unemployment system, implemented a few years ago, is available 24/7.

To apply for unemployment, visit 1-800-593-7660 between 8 a.m. and 12:15 p.m., Monday through Friday.

For password resets and basic questions through CareerCenter, visit

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Comments (1)
Posted by: Mary A McKeever | Apr 09, 2020 12:45

God bless the workers at Dept. of Labor!

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