A man walks through the snow on Congress Street in Portland on Thursday. Credit: Troy R. Bennett / BDN

Maine’s economic recovery from the coronavirus-induced recession petered out in November following six months of gains, losing 500 nonfarm jobs in a grim sign as Congress wrangled over a stimulus package.

Jobs in the leisure and hospitality sector decreased by 900, which the Maine Department of Labor said Friday said was largely the result of seasonality and was partially offset by an increase of 500 jobs in the financial activities sector. Jobs in other sectors were little changed.

The state’s unemployment rate decreased 0.4 percentage points to 5 percent for November, according to figures released by the Maine Department of Labor on Friday. The rate was down sharply from the April high of 10.4 percent, but remained well above the 3.2 percent rate for February, the month before the coronavirus pandemic reached Maine. 

Nationwide, the total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 245,000 in November and the unemployment rate edged down to 6.7 percent from 6.9 percent the previous month, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on Dec. 4.

On Thursday, the Maine labor department reported that 3,100 initial claims were filed for state unemployment insurance for the week that ended Dec. 12 and 900 initial claims were filed for federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. In total, about 3,900 people filed an initial claim or reopened their unemployment claim. 

More than 30,000 Mainers are expected to lose unemployment benefits the day after Christmas unless Congress passes another stimulus package. Leaders reported progress earlier this week on a $900 billion aid bill that would include an unemployment boost, direct payments and business loans, but no deal emerged by Friday afternoon as Congress also faced a Friday deadline to fund the government or shut it down.

The initial claims were up slightly from the almost 3,000 Mainers who filed new unemployment claims for the week that ended Dec. 5, a five-month high. About 13,900 continued claims were filed last week for state unemployment and 17,200 for federal assistance. 

Also, about 12,500 weekly certifications were filed for the federal Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program and 85 weekly certifications were filed for the state Extended Benefits program. 

The majority of the increase in state unemployment claims was due to seasonal layoffs that occur every winter, such as in construction and landscaping, the labor department said.

Between March 15 and December 12, the Maine Department of Labor paid out more than $1.7 billion in federal and state unemployment benefits.