Bourbon Street is empty early Mardi Gras morning during the coronavirus pandemic in New Orleans, Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021. (Staff photo by David Grunfeld, | The Times-Picayune | The New Orleans Advocate)

New jobless claims across Louisiana dropped last week to 6,246 from 9,010 one week before, according to U.S. Department of Labor data released on Thursday.

The slowdown follows a big influx in new unemployment claims during January as residents filed en masse to qualify for the extra $300 federal stimulus payment approved by Congress in December. 

There also were another 2,416 new claims filed last week for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a special federal program for the self-employed such as independent contractors, compared to 2,979 claims one week before.

There were 57,795 continuing existing unemployment claims across the state for the week ending Feb. 6, the latest state data available, and another 115,677 existing PUA program claims continuing. The state paid $95.6 million for benefits for the week ending Feb. 6.

Meanwhile, the overall state economy appears to be improving as there has not yet been a mass layoff notice in Louisiana in 2021, compared to dozens during 2020 prompted by the coronavirus pandemic. 

Few tourists visited New Orleans this week during a usually rambunctious Mardi Gras as parades were canceled, bars were shuttered and to-go liquor sales were temporarily banned.  Simultaneous severe winter weather prompted state agencies to close nearly all week as utilities work to restore power and water to tens of thousands of residents across Louisiana. 

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