Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

General | Demographics | Economic Indicators | Employment and Unemployment | Surveys | Unemployment Insurance | Wages


  • How many businesses are there in Maine? How many people do they employ?

    The Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW) program compiles statistics on employing units and employment from the quarterly reports provided by Maine employers that include the number of people working for them and the wages they received for that employment.

  • What does the term "benchmarked" mean?

    The term "benchmarked" (in the LAUS program) refers to forcing the monthly statewide model-based estimates to population controlled Current Population Survey annual average estimates. Substate estimates are then revised and forced to add to the new state estimates. As part of the process, any changes in the inputs, such as revision in the Current Employment Statistics-based employment figures or unemployment insurance claims counts, and updated historical relationships, are incorporated.

  • What is a labor market area and how are they defined?

    A Labor Market Area (LMA) consists of an economic center and the associated cities/towns in the vicinity. Their delineations are based on commuting pattern data from the American Community Survey. The Local Area Unemployment Statistics program began publishing unemployment and labor force estimates for the current Labor Market Area definitions in 2015.

  • What is the Consumer Price Index (CPI)?

    The consumer price index (CPI) is the most widely used measure of consumer price inflation. The CPI measures the average change over time in the prices paid by urban consumers for goods and services. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) of the U.S. Department of Labor collects the CPI price information and calculates the CPI statistics.

  • Where can information on productivity be found?

    The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics provides information on productivity.

  • Who are Maine's largest employers?

    A listing of the Top 50 Private Employers in Maine (PDF) and Top 25 Private Employers in Maine by County (PDF) by employment range is located on our Publications page.


  • How can I find demographic data such as population by age group, number of households, household income, per capita income, and racial and gender characteristics?

    Demographic data can be obtained from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Additionally, some programs at the Bureau of Labor Statistics make significant amounts of national labor force data available for specific demographic categories including sex, age, race and ethnic origin. A variety of statistics from other Federal government agencies can be accessed through FedStats.

Economic Indicators

  • How is the CPI index used to measure price change?

    The CPI measures the average change over time in the prices paid by urban consumers for a representative selection of consumer goods and services. The selection of goods and services (commonly referred to as the "market basket") is based upon actual consumer purchasing patterns, which are determined from a survey of consumer expenditures. Goods and services in the market basket are weighted according to the share they constitute of total consumer spending. The major expenditure categories are: food and beverages, housing, apparel, transportation, medical care, recreation, education and communication, and other goods and services.

  • What are CPI-U and CPI-W?

    The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics measures the CPI for two population groups: (1) All Urban Consumers (CPI-U) and (2) Urban Wage and Clerical Workers (CPI-W). The CPI-U measures consumer price inflation for all U.S. residents of urban areas, which accounts for about 87 percent of the U.S. population. The CPI-W measures consumer price inflation for a subset of the CPI-U population: residents of urban areas who live in households that receive more than half of their income from clerical or wage occupations, and have one earner employed for at least 37 weeks during the previous 12 months. The CPI-W covers about 32 percent of the U.S. population. The CPI-U is the most commonly used index because it has the broadest population coverage. However, the CPI-W is used sometimes to make cost-of-living adjustments for labor contracts.

  • What is the importance of housing starts and building permits?

    Housing starts measure when "excavation begins for the footings or foundation," building permits are a total of the number of "housing units authorized" to be built. These forward-looking reports are considered a meaningful barometer of housing, which has a major impact on consumer spending. Good examples of this are represented by the purchase of appliances, building materials, furniture, other home furnishings and landscaping for these new homes. Consumer spending is also supported by the various ways home equity can be turned into buying power for whatever purchase they wish or consolidate debt using home equity loans, lines of credit or refinancing their existing mortgage(s). Equity is also turned into buying power when trading up for a bigger home, or trading down for a smaller home and utilizing the difference for other purchases or debt reduction. With consumer spending accounting for nearly two-thirds of all economic activity, these reports are one of several key reports monitored by the Federal Reserve in setting monetary policy.

Employment and Unemployment

  • How is the unemployment rate measured?

    The unemployment rate is measured in a top down format. On a monthly basis, a sample of households are surveyed on a nationwide basis. From this sample, state rates are determined along with the national rate. The state information is then used through a model-based module to generate the substate (i.e. county/city) data.

  • How many people in Maine are employed? Unemployed? What is the unemployment rate?

    Every month the Center for Workforce Research and Information (CWRI) releases Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS) with the number employed, unemployed, the civilian labor force, and the unemployment rate. The report includes not seasonally adjusted data for the state, counties, labor market areas.

  • What is covered employment?

    Covered employment refers to those employers who fall under the coverage of the state and federal unemployment insurance programs and pay unemployment taxes on their workers. The main activities NOT included in Covered employment are self-employment, railroads, and small agricultural activities.

  • What is the CES definition of employment?

    CES employment is an estimate of the number of nonfarm, payroll jobs in the U.S. economy. Employment is the total number of persons on establishment payrolls employed full- or part-time who received pay for any part of the pay period that includes the 12th day of the month. Temporary and intermittent employees are included, as are any employees who are on paid sick leave, on paid holiday, or who work during only part of the specified pay period. A striking employee who only works a small portion of the survey period, and is paid, would be included as employed under the CES definitions. Persons on the payroll of more than one establishment are counted in each establishment. Data exclude proprietors, self-employed, unpaid family or volunteer workers, farm workers, and domestic workers. Persons on layoff the entire pay period, on leave without pay, on strike for the entire period, or who have a pending job but have not yet reported for work are not counted as employed. Government employment covers only civilian employees; it excludes uniformed members of the armed services.

  • What is the difference between nonfarm employment and labor force employment?

    Nonfarm employment is estimated based on the Current Employment Statistics (CES) survey of business establishments, and represents a count of jobs by place of work. Labor force employment is based largely on a household survey, the Current Population Survey (CPS), and represents employed persons by place of residence.

  • What is the difference between seasonally adjusted and not seasonally adjusted data?

    Most economic series, including employment and unemployment data, are affected by seasonal variations. Often it is difficult to tell from raw statistics whether developments between any two months reflect changing economic conditions or merely normal seasonal fluctuations. In order to compare employment and unemployment data for any pair of months accurately, a statistical technique known as seasonal adjustment is used.

  • Who is considered part of the labor force?

    The labor force includes all persons 16 years of age and over who are employed, or unemployed and actively seeking employment. Those involved in a labor-management dispute are also included. The "civilian labor force" excludes members of the armed forces and the institutionalized population.

  • Who is considered unemployed?

    Unemployed persons are the number of people who are not employed but are actively seeking work. Included are those who are waiting to be called back from a lay off or are waiting to report to a new job within 30 days.

  • Why is the level of employment different when comparing the estimated labor force data with the covered employment data?

    The estimated labor force data is residence-based information while the covered employment data is establishment-based information.


  • I didn't receive the Multiple Worksite Report (MWR). What should I do?

    Contact the Maine Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW) program manager at (207) 623-7900.

  • Must I complete the agricultural wage survey form?

    You are not required to complete it, but your information is valuable because it forms the basis for the prevailing wage that is paid to foreign workers in your business/industry. If you are hiring foreign labor, it is highly recommended you complete the questionnaire so your company has a say in determining next year?s prevailing wage.

  • Must I complete the OEWS survey form? Is there any other way to provide the information?

    Instead of completing the standard survey form, you may also elect to send in a computer printout that includes job titles and wages. We do not require names of employees and all the information you provide is held confidential. You may always contact us by phone or email to discuss alternative methods.

  • What is done with the information collected from the agriculture wage survey?

    Data from the survey is compiled and used to identify a prevailing wage for occupations in your industry. Any employer looking to hire foreign labor for those same occupations must pay the prevailing wage or better for that labor. This ensures that jobs, as much as possible, remain open to U.S. workers. Under the Foreign Labor Certification Program (H-2A Program), the employer must offer, recruit at, and pay a wage that is the highest of the Adverse Effect Wage Rate (AEWR) in effect at the time the job order is placed, the prevailing hourly or piece rate, the agreed-upon collective bargaining rate (CBA), or the Federal or State minimum wage.

  • What is done with the information collected from the OEWS survey?

    Data from the survey is compiled and used to identify emerging and declining occupations and their corresponding average wages. The Occupational Employment & Wage Estimates for Maine and Maine counties are published annually on our Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) web page.

  • What wages do other companies pay their employees?

    Maine law requires that the Center for Workforce Research and Information (CWRI) holds any information on employment and rates of pay provided by specific employers strictly confidential. Under the provisions of federal law, data on individual firms gathered for statistical purposes through state-federal cooperative programs cannot be made public by CWRI. You can find occupation specific information through the Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) program which publishes hourly earnings data by occupation, and the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW) program which produces average weekly wages by industry.

  • Why do I need to complete the Industry Verification Survey?

    The accurate assignment of industrial and geographic codes from the data you supply on this form will ensure the quality of the employment data summaries that we prepare. These summaries can be used in economic development planning, wage analyses and economic research. They are used to project emerging industries and occupations, information that is of great interest to workers, employers, guidance counselors in local schools, employment and job training organizations, and others. The Maine Department of Labor also uses the information you provide for program planning and statistical studies, and for informing public policy on investments in industry and workforce development. Your cooperation is critical to the decisions made in all of these areas.

  • Why should I participate in your surveys?

    Your information is extremely important for the economic development of an area, county, state, and our nation. Measuring the economy through the accurate data collection, dissemination, analysis and production of employer information is our area of expertise. Surveys that we conduct are key to ensuring we are keeping current with the economic development issues. The information we collect will: enable you to accurately compare business growth in your industry with other parts of the state; show the availability of trained workers qualified to work in your industry; ensure the quality of wage and employment data for your industry.

Unemployment Insurance

  • What do the unemployment insurance claims figures measure?

    Statistics on the number of insured unemployed are collected as a byproduct of Unemployment Insurance (UI) programs. Workers who lose their jobs and are covered by these programs typically file claims, which serve as notice that they are beginning a period of unemployment. Claimants who qualify for benefits are counted in the insured unemployment figures. However, they only represent a portion of the total unemployed. These data are not used to measure total unemployment because they exclude several important groups. The insured unemployed excludes unemployed workers who have exhausted their benefits; new entrants or reentrants to the labor market; disqualified workers whose unemployment is considered to have resulted from their own actions (misconduct on the job) rather than from economic conditions; and otherwise eligible unemployed persons who do not file for benefits. In terms of employed workers, the principal groups not covered by the UI programs are self-employed workers, unpaid family workers, workers in certain non-profit organizations, and other, primarily seasonal, worker categories.

  • What is a continued claim?

    A weekly request for benefit payment after the initial claim has been filed. Each week a claimant is totally or partially unemployed the claimant must report to certify eligibility for a benefit payment for the week.

  • What is an initial claim?

    This is a term used to define the initial notice of unemployment a person files with the State Unemployment Insurance agency to initiate a request either for a determination of entitlement to and eligibility for compensation, or for a subsequent period of unemployment within a benefit year or period of eligibility.

  • What is the average duration for which claimants receive unemployment insurance benefits?

    For the latest Unemployment Benefits data, please see our Unemployment Insurance page on our website.

  • What is the average weekly unemployment insurance benefit amount?

    For the latest Unemployment Benefits data, please see our Unemployment Insurance page on our website.

  • What is the purpose of a 4-week moving average?

    Since jobless claims may be volatile from week to week, the four-week moving average is observed to get a better indication of the underlying trend.

  • What is unemployment insurance?

    Unemployment Insurance is temporary income for workers who are unemployed through no fault of their own and who are either looking for new jobs, in approved training, or awaiting recall to employment. The funding for unemployment insurance benefits comes from taxes paid by employers. Workers do not pay any of the costs. To qualify for unemployment benefits, you must have earned sufficient wages during a specified time (monetary eligibility). To collect benefits, you must meet certain legal eligibility requirements.


  • How much do other people who are in my line of work make?

    The Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) program surveys employers to provide an annual report of wages paid for more than 500 different occupations.

  • What are mean wages? What are median wages?

    The Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) program produces estimates of wages by occupation, i.e., the wages paid to wage or salary employees in a given occupation in the U.S., in a particular State, or in a particular industry. These occupational wage estimates are either estimates of mean wages or percentiles, such as the median wage.

    • A mean wage is an average wage. An occupational mean wage estimate is calculated by summing the wages of all the employees in a given occupation and then dividing the total wages by the number of employees.
    • A percentile wage is a boundary. For example, an occupational median wage (50th percentile) estimate is the boundary between the highest paid 50 percent and the lowest paid 50 percent of workers in that occupation. Half of the workers in a given occupation earn more than the median wage, and half the workers earn less than the median wage.

  • What wages do other companies pay their employees?

    Maine law requires that the Center for Workforce Research and Information (CWRI) holds any information on employment and rates of pay provided by specific employers strictly confidential. Under the provisions of federal law, data on individual firms gathered for statistical purposes through state-federal cooperative programs cannot be made public by CWRI. The Occupational Employment Statistics (OEWS) program publishes hourly earnings data by occupation, and the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW) program produces average weekly wages by industry.

  • What wages should I pay my employees?

    The Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics (OEWS) program publishes hourly earnings data by occupation.