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The state’s several-year streak of low unemployment ended in April, reflecting activities curtailed by the coronavirus and efforts to contain it, according to information released Friday by the Maine Department of Labor and the U.S. Department of Labor.
The April rate was 10.6 percent, more than triple the 3.2 percent rate in March, which represented a record 39 consecutive months below 4 percent. The rate, which is the sharpest increase in any April on record, is preliminary and seasonally adjusted.
The data are based on information collected during the week that includes the 12th of the month, which was the 12th to the 18th in April. The March numbers were low because the survey was done the week before sharp job losses began, the Maine Department of Labor said.
The estimated number of nonfarm jobs decreased by 98,400 in April. That’s a 16.6 percent drop, slightly higher than the national 14 percent job loss rate since February. It translates into one out of six jobs lost in Maine, the department said.
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Job losses between February and April hit every major industry sector, but leisure and hospitality saw the largest decrease, with 42,600 jobs lost, or 61 percent of the jobs in that sector. They represent 40 percent of all jobs lost in Maine.
Labor officials said the highest job losses were in the third week of March, but it is not clear if there will be another steep drop in the unemployment rate in the months to come.
“Maine has one of the highest rates of seasonality in terms of upswing in jobs in the summer versus winter,” said Glenn Mills, an economist for the Maine Department of Labor. “It’s pretty clear that we won’t have nearly as large an upswing as typically happens, so that’s going to impact a lot of people.”
Another issue is consumer behavior, said Mark McInerney, director of the state’s Center for Workforce Research and Information.
“Even if the virus is contained there’s going to be an issue around consumer confidence, so do people feel safe returning to their normal activities?” he said.
The Portland and South Portland metropolitan area was most affected by job losses because it has a concentration of jobs in the hard-hit hospitality, health care and retail sectors. The rates of job loss in the Bangor and Lewiston-Auburn metropolitan areas was lower than the statewide average, according to the Maine Department of Labor.
Another striking statistic is that there were 28,600 fewer people in the workforce in April than in February, which was an unusually high drop, the department said. However, there was a similar drop nationally.
More than 11,500 Mainers filed unemployment claims during the week ended May 16, bringing the total to more than 138,000 since March, according to Maine labor department figures released Thursday. Of that number, 4,640 Mainers filed for initial unemployment, while 7,043 initial claims were filed for the federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program.
Nationally, April’s unemployment rate rose 10.3 percentage points from March to 14.7 percent, the highest rate in record-keeping by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which released its data two weeks ago. Some 2.44 million new claims were filed, down 249,000 from the previous week, according to the U.S. labor department. That brings the total claims over the past nine weeks to 38.6 million.
Total U.S. nonfarm payroll employment fell by 20.5 million in April. Employment fell sharply in all major industry sectors, with particularly heavy job losses in leisure and hospitality.
Nationally, 2.44 million new claims were filed, down 249,000 from the previous week, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. That brings the total claims over the past nine weeks to 38.6 million.
Some analysts expect the national unemployment to hit 20 percent by the summer. The May unemployment rate in Maine will be reported on June 19.
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