Labor

Maine’s unemployment rate remained unchanged at 4.9% in August

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According to the Maine Department of Labor’s (DOL) Center for Workforce Research and Information, the number of nonfarm payroll jobs in Maine decreased by 1,200 during the month of August to 617,200. The unemployment rate remained unchanged at 4.9%.

The DOL reports that the number of payroll jobs has increased by 31,500 over the past year, but there remain 22,800 fewer jobs in the state than in February 2020, before the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Private sector jobs decreased by 100. The rest of the month’s job losses came from government jobs, mostly in local government. The DOL also reported that jobs in healthcare and social assistance increased by 800, but this gain was offset by decreases in several other sectors.

Within the 31,500 jobs recovered over the course of the pandemic, the largest gains were made in the sectors of leisure and hospitality, manufacturing, retail trade and professional and business service.

Overall, the number of jobs in Maine has decreased by 3.6% since February 2020, slightly above the 3.5% decrease experienced by the U.S. as a whole. 

The sectors that have recovered the least include leisure and hospitality, state and local government, education, and healthcare and social assistance. 

According to the Center for Workforce Research and Information data, there were 58,200 jobs in leisure and hospitality in August, up 12,600 from a year ago. In August of 2019, there were 70,400 jobs in the leisure and hospitality sector. A year before, in August of 2018, there were 69,300 jobs.

The Maine DOL describes the post-pandemic jobs recovery as following a “stairstep pattern of rising numbers of jobs followed by periods of relative flatness.” The DOL reports that periods of growth in the number of jobs mirror decreasing cases of COVID-19, while periods where the number of jobs remain flat mirror increasing case counts.

On September 16, the DOL published the findings of a survey it conducted on the barriers job seekers are facing when looking to return to work. The survey, which the DOL reports it sent to over 44,000 unemployment insurance claimants and jobseekers on Maine JobLink in July 2021, received 2,600 replies.

Approximately 34% of respondents cite a “lack of opportunities that match my skillset” as the biggest barrier they face in returning to work. Another 31% cited “COVID health risks or concerns.” 

Survey respondents were also asked what kind of support they felt they needed to return to work. The leading answer, cited by 32% of respondents, was “relevant job opportunities or leads.” The DOL reported that nearly every demographic and geographic group surveyed identified this as a priority in returning to work.

Between March 15, 2020 and September 11 of this year, the last time DOL reported on unemployment data, the department had handled just over 275,000 claims for state unemployment and just over 114,300 claims for the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which ended on September 4.

DOL notes the number of claims does not equal the number of unique claimants. In that time period it has received over 4.5 million filings for weekly unemployment certification. It has paid out over $2.4 billion in federal and state unemployment benefits, $1.8 of which was paid through federal programs.

About Katherine Revello

Katherine Revello is a reporter for The Maine Wire. She has degrees in journalism and political science from the University of Maine. Her writing has appeared in Reason, The Washington Examiner, and various other publications. Got news tips? Contact Katherine at krevello@mainepolicy.org.

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