In this Aug. 9, 2021, file photo, a hiring sign hangs in a window of Wendy's on Western Avenue in Augusta. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

Weekly unemployment claims in Maine are continuing to decrease.

The Maine Department of Labor said Thursday there were about 200 fewer claims filed last week than the previous week. The agency said about 7,500 weekly certifications were filed last week for state unemployment and another 7,880 weekly certifications were filed under federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.

About 14,300 weekly certifications were filed for the federal Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program.

The labor department said it has paid more than $2.4 billion in federal and state unemployment benefits since the start of the pandemic. About $1.8 billion of that money was paid via federal unemployment programs, the department said.

Nationally, the number of Americans applying for unemployment benefits rose for the first time in five weeks. The Labor Department reported Thursday that claims increased by 4,000 to 353,000 from a pandemic low of 349,000 a week earlier.