A sign announces a coronavirus closure at a flower shop in Jay last week. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty | AP

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New jobless claims in Maine declined again last week, but still remain well above where they were before economic activity was sharply curtailed to halt the spread of the new coronavirus.

Mainers submitted 11,561 new jobless claims to the state for the week of April 12 to 18, according to new data the Maine Department of Labor released Thursday morning. Maine workers received about $73 million in unemployment benefits that week, the department said. That includes retroactive payments of $600 under the federal coronavirus relief package.

[Our COVID-19 tracker contains the most recent information on Maine cases by county]

Total jobless claims over the past four weeks have totaled 79,632, or about 11 percent of Maine’s total civilian workforce. Jobless claims peaked during the week of March 29 to April 4 at 30,899 new claims. Those claims fell sharply to 13,421 for the week of April 5 to April 11, ending three weeks of record high unemployment filings.

Before new restrictions on businesses in the state took effect last month, 634 new jobless claims were filed for the week of March 8 to March 14, according to state labor data.

“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,” Maine’s labor commissioner, Laura Fortman, said in a statement. “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.”

In the five weeks from March 15 through April 18, new claims totaled 101,100, matching the overall total for the previous 135 weeks combined, according to the department. New jobless claims are more than double the state’s previous record of 5,634 set in January 2009 during the Great Recession, according to state data.

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The industries with the highest jobless claims for the three-week period ending April 18 include food services and lodging, with 13,470; health care and social assistance, with 9,900; retail, with 8,730; and manufacturing, with 6,710, according to the Department of Labor. Those sectors have accounted for 81 percent of claims since the beginning of the coronavirus crisis.

Maine’s unemployment rate was 3.2 percent in March, compared with 3.2 percent in February and 3.1 percent a year ago. That continues a four-year streak of record low unemployment, but the rate is based on labor force information culled during the week of March 12, before new restrictions curtailed economic activity in Maine to halt the spread of the coronavirus.

The release of the new jobless claims data comes days after hundreds gathered outside the Blaine House in Augusta to pressure Democratic Gov. Janet Mills to roll back restrictions on businesses and a stay-at-home order put in place to limit the coronavirus’ spread. That followed similar protests in other states as more people begin to push back against coronavirus restrictions that have sharply curtailed economic activity and left many out of work.

[Many small businesses say coronavirus loans won’t get them to rehire]

Nationally, 4,427,000 Americans filed for unemployment for the week ending April 18, down 810,000 from the previous week’s revised total of 5,237,000, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. About 26 million Americans have filed for unemployment in the five weeks since the coronavirus outbreak began to surge in the U.S.

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose 2.8 percentage points to 11 percent for the week ending April 18, the highest level ever since the seasonally adjusted rate was first compiled, the U.S. Department of Labor said.

The coronavirus outbreak has plunged the U.S. into the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s and has likely surpassed the slump seen in the Great Recession from 2007 to 2009, the Associated Press reports.