BOSTON (CBS/AP) — Another 22,795 people filed new unemployment claims in Massachusetts last week. That’s an increase of 4,407 from the previous week, Department of Labor numbers show.

New claims for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance in the state dropped slightly to 11,313. The program is designed to help independent contractors and “gig economy” workers who are not typically covered by unemployment insurance.

The unemployment rate in Massachusetts was 11.3% as of August. Learn more about applying for unemployment in Massachusetts here.

The number of people seeking unemployment aid nationwide rose slightly last week to 870,000, a historically high figure that shows that the viral pandemic is still squeezing restaurants, airlines, hotels and many other businesses six months after it first erupted.

The Labor Department said Thursday that the number of people who are continuing to receive unemployment benefits declined to 12.6 million. The steady decline in that figure over the past several months reflects that some of the unemployed are being re-hired. Yet it also indicates that others have exhausted their regular jobless aid, which last six months in most states.

In addition to those receiving aid on state programs, about 105,000 others were added to an extended jobless-benefits program that provides 13 additional weeks of aid. This program, established in the economic relief package that Congress passed earlier this year, is now paying benefits to 1.6 million people.

Applications for jobless aid soared in the spring after the viral outbreak suddenly shut down businesses across the country, slashed tens of millions of jobs and triggered a deep recession. Since then, as states have slowly reopened their economies, about half the jobs that were initially lost have been recovered.

Thursday’s report from the government comes against the backdrop of an economy that has been recovering fitfully from a catastrophic recession. Some economic barometers, like housing, retail purchases and auto sales, have managed to produce solid gains. But with unemployment elevated at 8.4% and a key federal jobless benefit having expired, the economy’s gains are believed to be slowing.

Most economists say it will be hard for the job market or the economy to sustain any recovery unless Congress enacts another rescue aid package for struggling individuals, businesses and states. Ultimately, an effective vaccine will likely be needed for the economy to fully regain its health.

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

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