Maine’s unemployment rate has remained relatively consistent these past few months — leveling out around 2.5 percent — according to the August 2023 statistics released by the Maine Department of Labor (MDOL).
At the same time, Maine’s labor force participation rate, a measure of how many Mainers who can work are working, saw a minor uptick over the course of the summer, but it has nonetheless remained significantly lower than the national percentage.
August’s 2.5 percent unemployment represents a minimal uptick from the 2.4 percent reported consistently for the past several months.
MDOL attributed the increase to a rise in the number of non-working Mainers who had begun to look for jobs.
Compared to the rest of the country, Maine’s unemployment rate is relatively low. The national unemployment rate for August clocked in at 3.8 percent, a slight increase from the 3.5 percent reported in July.
Maine’s labor force participation rate is also on the rise, albeit very minimally. Over the course of the past few months, the labor force participation rate rose from 58.4 percent in June to 58.6 percent in August.
Despite the subtle increase, Maine’s rate of labor force participation is still markedly lower than the national percentage.
The labor force participation rate is the proportion of working-age individuals who are either employed or actively searching for work.
Although there are a number of different ways to calculate the labor force participation rate, the MDOL arrives at its statistics by considering all individuals over the age of 16. Consequently, retirees and other elderly individuals are included in these numbers.
As a result of this, it can be more complicated to parse these statistics, particularly given Maine’s aging population.
Looking at states with a similar average age, however, reveals that there is likely more to the story in Maine than simply an older-than-average population.
While Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont all have a similar median age, New Hampshire and Vermont have significantly higher rates of labor force participation this month – at 64.8 percent and 64.9 percent respectively.
This suggest that an aging population is not likely to be the only driver behind Maine’s comparatively low labor force participation rate.
Maine’s labor force participation rate has not been competitive with the national rate since roughly October of 2018.