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Maine unemployment rate shows modest improvement in December

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Maine’s unemployment rate decreased slightly to 4.7% in December 2021, according to a release issued Tuesday by the Maine Department of Labor (DOL). The unemployment rate in November 2021 was also revised from 4.8% to 4.9%. 

The unemployment rate is now at its lowest level since March 2020. 

The labor force participation rate was 60.1% in December 2021. It has been between 60.1% and 60.4% for the past nine months.

The number of nonfarm payroll jobs available in the state increased by 1,800. Following an upwards revision of 1,400 to November’s estimate of available jobs, the number of jobs available in Maine as of December 2021 now totals 616,300.

According to the DOL, this is “the highest number of jobs since July and the second highest total in 21 months.”

The DOL also reported that the leisure and hospitality sector, which added 1,000 jobs, and wholesale and retail trade, which added 500 jobs, saw the largest increase in available jobs. Other sectors saw little change during the final month of 2021. 

In December, there were 520,400 jobs available in the private sector, the highest number since the beginning of the pandemic. Despite these gains, there were still 3.7% fewer jobs available in December than in February 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic first affected the labor market. The DOL reports that the number of jobs in the private sector remains down 3.3%, while government jobs are down 6.1%.

Approximately 49% of the decrease in the labor market since the start of the pandemic has occurred in the leisure and hospitality sector, mostly in restaurants and bars. Other sectors with large percentages of post-pandemic job losses include state and local government and healthcare and social assistance. Jobs are down 27% in state and local government, mostly in schools, according to the DOL. Healthcare and social assistance has 21% fewer jobs, mostly in social assistance and nursing and residential care facilities, according to the DOL.

For December 2021, there were 102,400 people employed in the healthcare and social assistance sector in the state. That number is down 1,500 from a year ago. In November 2021, there were 102,200 people employed in the sector. Employment in healthcare and social assistance peaked in August in 2021. During that month, 104,500 people were employed in the sector.

The DOL also reports that December’s unemployment rate was 1.6% higher than in February 2020 and the labor force participation rate was 2.5% lower. According to the DOL, the increase in the unemployment rate is partially due to a 10,200 increase in the number of people in the state who are unemployed. The remainder of the increase is reflected by lower labor force participation.

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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