BOSTON -- New unemployment claims in Massachusetts ticked up last week as an additional $300 in weekly payments kicked in from a federal relief package.
At least 25,869 new benefits claims were filed for the week ended Jan. 2, according to the state Department of Labor. That's an increase of about 2,500 from the previous week.
Another 4,724 new claims were filed for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, which covers workers ineligible for regular state unemployment, up about 200 from the prior week, the agency said.
Nationally, about 787,000 new claims were filed last week, according to the Labor Department. That’s slightly fewer than the previous week.
Continuing claims — which are viewed as a barometer of the jobless situation — dropped slightly to about 5 million nationally, the Labor Department said. More than 19.1 million Americans are now receiving state or federal jobless benefits.
Last month, Congress passed a $900 billion COVID-19 relief bill that has added $300 a week in extra benefits for those receiving unemployment, and it extended two pandemic jobless programs used by more than 13 million people nationwide.
The federal programs provide benefits for self-employed, gig economy workers and others who do not qualify for traditional state benefits.
Massachusetts has paid out more than $5.3 billion in unemployment benefits through the end of October, according to state data. That’s nearly five times as much as during the same period in 2019.
The state's unemployment rate fell to 6.7% in November, but tens of thousands of workers remain idle amid ongoing economic fallout of the pandemic.
Amid the crush of jobless claims, the state's unemployment trust fund is projected to be more than $5 billion in the hole by the end of this year. Meanwhile employers are facing increases in unemployment insurance costs of up to 60% to help replenish the fund.
Christian M. Wade covers the Massachusetts Statehouse for North of Boston Media Group’s newspapers and websites.