Maine: Unemployment Claims Up; July 4Th Pops Canceled Again

AUGUSTA, Maine (AP) — New unemployment claims rose again in Maine despite an increase in hiring around the country.

The Maine Department of Labor reported 2,100 initial claims for state unemployment insurance for the week that ended April 3. That was an increase from 1,600 claims the previous week.

However, the agency also reported 200 initial claims for federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance during the same week. That number decreased from 400 the previous week. The total number of people who filed an initial claim or reopened a claim rose from 2,400 to 3,000.

The Labor Department said the increase in unemployment claims in Maine is due to layoffs in sectors such as retail trade and food services. Seasonal layoffs in sectors such as skiing also played a role, the department said.

The labor department said it has paid more than $2 billion in federal and state unemployment benefits since the start of the pandemic.

Maine’s unemployment rate was 4.8% for February, which was more than it was in February 2020, but less than the national rate of 6.2%.

In other pandemic news in Maine:



Organizers of the Portland Pops July 4th celebration said the event is canceled again this year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The city of Portland, Shamrock Sports & Entertainment, and the Portland Symphony Orchestra issued a joint statement on Friday that said the event has been canceled “in order to ensure the health and safety of the community.”

The organizers said they're hopeful for next year.

“We are excited to explore the possibility of continuing this beloved tradition in 2022,” the statement said.

The statement also said the city is considering the possibility of still having a fireworks display. The event and fireworks were both canceled last year.



Cases of the virus have continued to rise in Maine.

The seven-day rolling average of daily new cases in Maine has risen over the past two weeks from 194 on March 24 to 315.43 on April 7. The seven-day rolling average of daily deaths in Maine did not increase over the past two weeks, staying at 0.57.

The AP is using data collected by Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering to measure outbreak caseloads and deaths across the United States.

The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention has reported more than 53,000 cases of the virus and 750 deaths since the start of the pandemic. Maine CDC Director Dr. Nirav Shah said Thursday was the biggest day for coronavirus vaccinations in Maine so far.

“Getting the vaccine is the quickest and surest way out of this dark tunnel,” Shah said.



Limits on event attendance in the state are due to ease on May 24. Shah said there are no plans to change that at the moment.

Large gatherings are limited to 50% of permitted occupancy, five people per 1,000 square feet or 50 people, whichever is greatest. Those figures are set to increase on May 24 to 75% of permitted occupancy, five persons per 1,000 square feet, or 50 people, whichever is greatest.

The limit on outdoor gatherings has been 75% of permitted occupancy, and is set to expand to full capacity on May 24.

“There is no plan or even discussion of changing it right now. But it’s five weeks away and in pandemic time that is decades,” Shah said.