BOSTON (CBS/AP) — Massachusetts saw a drop in new jobless claims last week, according to the latest federal numbers. But the number of laid-off Americans seeking unemployment benefits rose last week for the first time since the pandemic struck in March, evidence of the deepening economic pain the outbreak is causing to the economy.

There were 18,313 initial unemployment claims filed in Massachusetts, down from 24,131 the previous week. The number of people in the state seeking Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, which covers independent contractors and “gig economy” workers who are not typically part of the unemployment system, stayed about steady at 12,402.

The Massachusetts unemployment rate for June was 17.4%, the highest in the country.

The rise in weekly jobless claims to 1.4 million underscores the outsize role the unemployment insurance system is playing among the nation’s safety net programs — just when a $600 weekly federal aid payment for the jobless is set to expire at the end of this week. Members of Congress are negotiating another aid package that might extend that benefit, although likely at a lower level of payment, CBS News reports.

All told, the Labor Department said Thursday that roughly 32 million people are receiving unemployment benefits.

Learn more about applying for unemployment benefits in Massachusetts here.

(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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