Maine unemployment rate hits 26-month low in May

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Maine’s unemployment rate fell slightly in May, to 3.2 percent from 3.3 percent the previous month. The labor force participation rate was unchanged from the previous month at 59 percent, as was the 57.1 percent employment-to-population ratio.

The May unemployment rate was the lowest in 26 months, before the COVID-19 pandemic hit. The number of nonfarm wage and salary jobs available in the state decreased by 2,900 and April’s estimate was revised lower by 1,300.

Revisions to previous months’ data are reflected in three-month averages, which the Maine Department of Labor (DOL) says provide a better indication of workforce conditions “as they smooth some of the variability in sample.based estimates.”

“The 3.4 percent average unemployment rate for March to May was 0.7 percentage points lower than in the three months through February. In that period the average labor force participation ticked down and the employment-to-population ratio ticked up,” the DOL said in a press release.

There were 635,100 jobs in Maine in April. Leisure and hospitality, manufacturing, and the financial service sectors saw the biggest decrease. Professional and business services saw the largest increase.

“In the three-months through May the state gained an average of 2,100 jobs per month over the previous three months through February. Despite a sharp decrease in May, the leisure and hospitality sector had the largest gain in that period, followed by the healthcare and social assistance and the professional and business services sectors,” said the DOL.

The three-month average of jobs through May was the same as the average for jobs in 2019. Private sector jobs averaged 0.6 percent higher than 2019 and government jobs averaged 3.1 percent lower.

The unemployment rate was at least 0.3 percent higher than the not-seasonally adjusted average of 3 percent in six Maine counties. It was at least three points lower than the state average in three counties and close to the average in seven. Cumberland and Sagadahoc Counties had the lowest unemployment rate in the state, at 2.5 percent, and Aroostook County had the highest unemployment rate in the state, at 4.9 percent.

The Portland-South Portland metro area had an unemployment rate of 2.6 percent, below the state average. The Bangor and Lewiston-Auburn metro areas had unemployment rates closer to the state average, 2.8 percent and 3 percent respectively.

According to a survey recently released by WalletHub, Maine’s unemployment rate is bouncing back from the COVID-19 pandemic at the 27th fastest rate in the nation. The study was updated on June 17 to reflect May’s unemployment numbers. Previously, the study showed Maine had the biggest decrease in the number of initial unemployment claims between the week beginning June 6 and the previous year. 

The updated study found that Maine’s unemployment claims are recovering the seventh quickest in the nation. Between the week starting June 6 and the week starting June 13, Maine’s unemployment claims were the seventh most recovered. Maine’s unemployment claims were the 25th most recovered since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Correction: This article was updated to reflect changes to WalletHub’s recent unemployment survey announced on June 17.

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