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June 17, 2022

Unemployment rate in Maine at lowest in more than 2 years

PETER VAN ALLEN The statewide unemployment rate dipped slightly in May, putting it at the lowest rate in 26 months and below regional and national rates. 

Despite "help wanted" signs in every business window, May’s employment picture in Maine was mixed.

Maine saw the lowest unemployment rate in more than two years, but fewer jobs were available.

The statewide unemployment rate dipped slightly in May, putting it at the lowest rate in 26 months and below regional and national rates. The unemployment rate was 3.2%, down slightly from April’s rate of 3.3%. The unemployment rates in the U.S. and New England both stood at 3.6%.

For the three months from March to May, the 3.4% average unemployment rate was 0.7 percentage points lower than in the three months through February. Three-month averages generally provide a better indication of workforce conditions, the Maine Department of Labor said.

The 59.0% labor force participation rate and the 57.1% employment-to-population ratio were unchanged in the month.

Total nonfarm wage and salary jobs decreased 2,900 in May to 635,100, after a downward revision of 1,300 jobs for the April estimate. In May, jobs decreased in the leisure and hospitality, manufacturing, and financial activities sectors, but jobs increased in professional and business services.

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.

The three-month average of jobs matched the average for 2019, the last full year before the pandemic. Compared to 2019, private sector jobs averaged 0.6% higher and government jobs averaged 3.1% lower.

Among the 16 counties in the state, unemployment rates ranged from a low of 2.5% in Cumberland and Sagadahoc counties to a high of 4.9% in Aroostook County.

Among the three metro areas of the state, unemployment was below the statewide average in Portland-S. Portland at 2.6% and close to the average in Bangor at 2.8% and Lewiston-Auburn at 3.0%.

Private sector hours and hourly earnings averaged 34.1 and $28.87 in May. Private sector hourly earnings increased an average of 7.3% from a year earlier, led by a 12% gain in leisure and hospitality earnings. The work week was longest in manufacturing and shortest in leisure and hospitality. Earnings were highest in professional and business services and lowest in leisure and hospitality.

Hourly earnings were higher than the statewide average in the Portland and South Portland metro area and lower in Bangor and Lewiston-Auburn regions.

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