Maine’s economic recovery hit a wall last month after seeing job creation pick up speed between January and April.
The Maine Department of Labor reported Wednesday that the state lost 600 jobs, bringing the May jobs figure down to 610,600.
May’s losses were concentrated in construction and manufacturing, but they were partially offset by gains in other sectors, including wholesale and retail trade.
Overall, Maine saw job losses across all sectors averaging 4.6 percent, compared with a year ago. Maine has about 52,800 more jobs than it did last year, according to the labor department. Still, despite those clawbacks, there are still about 29,400 fewer jobs than in February 2020, before the pandemic began.
Those gains over the past year as economic restrictions eased have been concentrated in those most heavily affected by the pandemic, such as leisure and hospitality, retail, and health care and social assistance.
Maine’s jobless rate fell slightly to 4.7 percent. That follows three-straight months when that rate held steady at 4.8 percent. It’s down from the pandemic high of 8.3 percent in May 2020, but higher than the 3.1 percent seen in February 2020, just before the pandemic ended a historic streak of record-low employment.
That jobless rate is below the national average (6.1 percent) and the average across New England (6.2 percent). Just two New England states — 2.5 percent in New Hampshire and 2.6 percent in Vermont — have lower levels of joblessness.
Even as joblessness has sharply declined in Maine, there are still 31,400 Mainers without work across the state, according to Maine labor officials. That surpasses the high seen in April 2009 during the Great Recession, when 28,564 Mainers were out of work, state data show.
But that rate of joblessness could be even higher. Maine’s labor force participation rate stands at 60.1 percent, up 0.9 percentage points from a year ago but down 3.1 points from February 2020. The labor force participation rate does not count those who are unemployed but have stopped looking for work.
If Maine’s labor force participation rate stood at its pre-pandemic level, another 28,500 Mainers would be counted as jobless and the unemployment rate could be as high as 8.5 percent, according to state labor officials.