June 06, 2020

Maine jobless rate nearing record low

AUGUSTA – Maine’s unemployment rate appears to be headed for a historic low in 2000 following a record monthly low in November, a state Labor Department official said Tuesday.

Maine’s unemployment rate dropped to 2.5 percent in November, the lowest seasonally adjusted rate on record in the state. The previous comparable monthly low of 3.2 percent was recorded in August.

For the first 11 months of 2000, the average rate was 3.4 percent, according to Labor Department figures. The lowest annual figure since the end of World War II was 3.7 percent set 48 years ago.

“Based on the first 11 months of data [for this year], it appears likely that the statewide unemployment rate for the year will be at or below the historic low of 3.7 percent in 1952,” the Labor Department’s Dana Evans said Tuesday.

Maine’s jobless rate, adjusted to account for seasonal fluctuations in the labor market, has remained fairly constant for most of the year, ranging from 3.5 percent posted for six months to 3.2 percent in August before plummeting to 2.5 percent in November.

While the 2.5 percent sets a record in Maine, comparable rates in some other New England states were lower in November. In Connecticut, it was 1.7 percent, while New Hampshire recorded 1.8 percent. Vermont’s was slightly higher at 2.8 percent.

Evans said Maine’s December rate would have to take “quite a jump” in order to push the annual jobless rate above the previous low.

While acknowledging that the drop from 3.5 percent in October to 2.5 percent in November is “unusually large,” the Labor Department cautioned against reading too much into last month’s sharp decline.

In a statement, Labor Commissioner Valerie Landry said the department “will have to evaluate the unemployment rates for the next couple of months before attaching too much significance to the November rate.”

The tight labor market that has been driving Maine’s jobless rate down this year is due to continued job growth and a low supply of available labor, the department said.

Maine’s November rate compared favorably to the comparable national rate.

The national rate, not adjusted for seasonal market changes, was 3.8 percent, 1.2 percent higher than Maine’s unadjusted rate.

And the unadjusted unemployment rates fluctuated within Maine’s counties, ranging from a low of 1.4 percent in Cumberland and Sagadahoc counties to 6.1 percent in Franklin County.

Before the rates were announced, Gov. Angus King said last week that while he was pleased with the overall employment picture in Maine, he remained concerned about high jobless rates in some pockets of the state.

The number of nonagricultural wage and salary jobs in Maine increased by 5,500 to 602,000 in Maine between October and November, according to the Labor Department.

Much of the increase was attributed to the end of a strike at Bath Iron Works.

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