April 2, 2020
Maine Department of Labor Releases Initial Unemployment Claims Data for Week Ending March 28
AUGUSTA - Initial claims for unemployment compensation were approximately 23,800 in the week ending March 28, the highest weekly total on record. Initial claims totaled about 21,500 the previous week, which was the previous record, and represent a significant increase from the week before that (ending March 14th) when about 630 initial claims were filed. For context, initial claims averaged close to 800 in the same week in 2018 and 2019. Continued claims for the week increased to 22,000 from 8,700 the prior week. Total claims for the week, both initial and continued claims, increased to 45,700 from 30,200 the prior week.
Claims data is released each Thursday at 8:30 a.m. Data is preliminary, subject to revision in following weeks. Data on claims and other information is available at https://www.maine.gov/labor/cwri/ui.html
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, and manufacturing industries.
"The data today shows another week of high levels of initial claims filed and a dramatic increase in weekly unemployment claims due to COVID-19 related business closures and layoffs," Commissioner Laura Fortman said. Although there is an unprecedented surge of applications, staff are working tirelessly to process claims as quickly as possible and last week over six million dollars in benefits were received by laid off Maine workers.
In light of the unprecedented high claim volume, the Department of Labor recommends that people file their claims online with a computer as opposed to a smart phone and do so in the evening when internet traffic is less. Those who are unable to connect with a claims representative by calling 1-800-593-7660 before 12:15 p.m. Monday through Friday should submit a message at https://www.maine.gov/labor/contact/index.html
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 has hired new staff and brought back retirees. By pulling staff from other areas of the department, we have tripled the number of people answering calls. The online unemployment system, which Maine implemented a few years ago, is performing as designed and is available 24/7.
To apply for unemployment: www.maine.gov/unemployment 1-800-593-7660 between 8 a.m. and 12:15 p.m. Monday-Friday
For password resets and basic questions through a CareerCenter: https://www.mainecareercenter.gov/locations/index.shtml
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.