Labor

Maine unemployment shows modest improvement in March

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In March, Maine’s unemployment rate was 3.6 percent, a decrease from February’s 4 percent unemployment rate. According to the Maine Department of Labor (DOL), the state’s unemployment rate has averaged 3.9 percent for the last three months. 

The number of jobs available in the state also increased by 3,600 in March. For the last three months, Maine has gained an average 3,400 jobs.

The DOL said March’s unemployment rate is the lowest in 24 months. The labor force participation rate was at 59.2 percent, little changed from February’s 59.3 percent rate.

“The 3.9 percent average unemployment rate for January to March decreased 0.4 percentage points from the prior three-month period through December. Labor force participation and employment-to-population rates were little changed in that period,” the DOL said in a press release.

The number of nonfarm wage and salary jobs available in the state increased to 638,700, with the largest number of gains in the professional and business services, retail trades, and healthcare and social assistance sectors. According to the DOL, for the three-month period through March, half of the job gains were in the leisure and hospitality and retail sectors, which saw “some of the sharpest job losses at the onset of the pandemic.”

Despite gains, employment in some sectors of Maine’s economy remain below pre-pandemic levels. Through March, the three-month average of available jobs in the state was 99.6 percent as high as the number of jobs available in 2019, according to the DOL. The professional and business services, construction, manufacturing, and education service sectors have levels of employment higher than before the pandemic. 

“The three-month average of jobs remained lower in healthcare and social assistance (primarily in nursing care facilities and in social assistance) and in leisure and hospitality (primarily in food services), as well as in state and local governments (primarily in K-12 and higher education),” said the DOL.

Eight other sectors have a three-month average of jobs near 2019 pre-pandemic levels.

The unemployment rate was at least 0.3 percent higher than the not seasonally-adjusted statewide average in eight of Maine’s 16 counties. It was 0.3 percent lower in three counties and close to the average in five counties. According to the DOL, county unemployment rates ranged from 3.1 percent in Cumberland County and 6.5 percent in Washington County.

In the state’s three largest metro areas of Portland (3.4 percent), Bangor (3.7 percent) and Lewiston-Auburn (3.9 percent), the unemployment rate was at or below the statewide average in March.

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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