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Updated: September 19, 2023

Maine unemployment rate little changed at 2.5% in August

Inside of store with table for job applicants Photo / Renee Cordes Maine employers in hiring mode include food retailer Shaw's, with this autumn-themed display table for potential applicants at a store in South Portland.

Maine's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate ticked up slightly to 2.5% in August from 2.4% in July, little changed from the record low of the previous four months.

Unemployment has been below 4% for 21 straight months, the third-longest period at such rates, according to the latest monthly data released by the Maine Department of Labor on Tuesday.

The agency attributed the increase to higher labor force participation rather than from decreased employment, as has been the case nationally.

Maine's 2.5% rate is below the 3.8% U.S. average and 2.7% for New England in August.

Leisure, hospitality

The state added 2,800 nonfarm wage and salary jobs to an estimated 646,800, with most of those increases coming from the leisure and hospitality sector.

Those industries rebounded from a July estimate that was below the recent trend, according to the Labor Department. Except for July, nonfarm jobs estimates have essentially been unchanged from November.

Among Maine's three metropolitan areas, unemployment was below the statewide average in Portland-South Portland and close to average in Bangor and Lewiston-Auburn. On a statewide level, rates were lowest in Hancock County and highest in Piscataquis County.

The private sector work week averaged 33.7 hours, a decrease of 0.7% over a year earlier, while hourly earnings increased 3.6% to $29.85 per hour. The work week was longest in construction and shortest in leisure and hospitality, which also recorded the lowest earnings. Earnings were highest in professional and business services.

In January, the state minimum wage in Maine is due to increase from $13.80 to $14.15 an hour, following a 2.4% rise in the regional cost-of-living index between August 2022 and August 2023. In addition, the new "tip wage," or service employee minimum wage, in 2024 will be $7.08 an hour, the Maine Department of Labor announced last week.

The department is scheduled to release September jobs data on Friday, Oct. 20.

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