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I-10 Mississippi River Bridge looking from the southeast to northwest Tuesday May 28, 2019, in Baton Rouge, La.

The number of people in Louisiana filing jobless claims for the first time narrowed further last week, while those continuing to receive unemployment benefits rose slightly to 328,409 for the week ending May 23.

That was up from 326,504 continuing claims one week before. Some economists were hopeful that the latest report would show a decline in existing unemployment claims because many businesses have at least partially reopened since May 15 for the first time since a mid-March stay-at-home order was imposed to battle the spread of the coronavirus. 

There were enough new filings last week to still offset any initial recovery. The Louisiana Workforce Commission said 23,853 new unemployment claims were filed during the week that ended May 23. That's down slightly from the 28,545 new claims filed for the week ending May 16, and continues a trend of new filings declining in recent weeks.

Last week's figures are down from the peak of 102,172 new claims for the week ending April 4, records show.

Across the country, an estimated 2.1 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week despite the gradual reopening of businesses around the country, bringing the running total since the coronavirus shutdowns took hold in mid-March to about 41 million, the federal government said Thursday.

In a glimmer of hope, the overall number of people currently drawing jobless benefits in the U.S. fell for the first time since the crisis began, from 25 million to 21 million, suggesting some companies are starting to rehire. First-time applications for unemployment have fallen for eight straight weeks. But the number of Americans filing for unemployment is still extraordinarily high by historical standards.

In Louisiana, new unemployment claims for workers in food services and accommodation continue to lead statewide job losses; 3,678 new claims were filed for the week ending May 23. The peak for the industry was 29,000 workers for the week ending March 21.

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Other industries with continued losses included retail trade with 2,584 new claims, down from its peak of 13,350 claims; healthcare and social assistance with 2,612 new claims, down from its peak of 13,265; and construction, with 2,451 new claims, down from its peak of 10,175. Those industries' peak filings occurred the week ending April 4. 

The state pays a maximum $247 per week for unemployment, with the federal government kicking in an additional $600 per week from a $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief package passed by Congress.

Louisiana still has about $800 million in its fund, down from $1 billion earlier this year.

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