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Maine’s unemployment rate drops to 6.4 percent, a five-year low

Posted Dec. 20, 2013, at 12:16 p.m.
Last modified Dec. 30, 2013, at 11:01 a.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine’s unemployment rate continued to fall in November, reaching a five-year low, according to labor data released Friday.

Maine’s unemployment rate was 6.4 percent in November, the lowest it’s been since November 2008, according to preliminary estimates released Friday by the Maine Department of Labor. The unemployment rate is down from 6.7 percent in October and 7.2 percent in November 2012.

In November, there were roughly 601,100 nonfarm wage and salary jobs in Maine, an increase of 4,600 jobs since the same month last year and 8,600 jobs since November 2009, according to preliminary estimates.

Gov. Paul LePage attributed the falling unemployment rate, in part, to his administration’s “pro-growth, pro-business policies” over the last three years.

“We have reduced taxes, cut red tape, streamlined regulations and made fiscally responsible decisions to right-size government. All of these factors make Maine more competitive in attracting and retaining jobs,” the governor said in a statement.

Preliminary unemployment estimates are notoriously unreliable. The labor department warns in a news release that the estimated rates “tend to move in a direction for several months and then reverse course. Those directional trends are largely driven by a smoothing procedure and may not indicate a change in underlying workforce conditions.”

Revisions in March are expected to smooth out the “directional patterns,” though that won’t change the fact that 2013 has seen Maine’s unemployment rate trend downward.

Nationally, the unemployment rate estimate was 7 percent for November, down from 7.3 percent in October and 7.8 percent one year ago, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Regionally, New England’s estimated unemployment rate was 6.9 percent in November. Maine fell into the middle of the pack among its neighbors. Vermont had the lowest rate in the region, with 4.4 percent, followed by New Hampshire with 5.1 percent. Massachusetts had a rate of 7.1 percent, followed by 7.6 percent in Connecticut and 9 percent in Rhode Island.

Another good metric for a state’s economic health is the share of the population that is employed. Maine’s has continued to gradually trend higher, reaching 61.2 percent in November, according to the state labor department. The national employment-to-population ratio was 58.6 percent, which is where it has been for the past four years. November marks the 74th consecutive month that Maine’s employment-to-population ratio exceeded the country’s.

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