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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 17, 2021
Contact: Glenn Mills 207-621-5192
AUGUSTA – There was little change in the employment situation through the summer. In August:
- Payroll jobs decreased by 1,200
- The unemployment rate was unchanged at 4.9 percent
Seasonally Adjusted Statewide Data
Nonfarm Payroll Jobs Estimates
The number of nonfarm payroll jobs decreased by 1,200 to 617,200 in August and the estimate for July was upwardly revised by 900. Government jobs decreased 1,100, mostly in local governments, and private sector jobs decreased 100. An increase of 800 jobs in healthcare and social assistance was offset by small decreases in several other sectors during the month.
The recovery has followed a stairstep pattern of rising numbers of jobs followed by periods of relative flatness. Job gains from April to September 2020 were followed by little change through the rest of the year. Gains in early 2021, especially in March, gave way to flatness the following two months. A sharp gain in June was followed by a relatively flat summer. These periods of flatness have paralleled increasing coronavirus case counts and periods of job gains have paralleled decreasing case counts. This has also been the pattern nationally.
Over the last year the number of payroll jobs increased 31,500. The largest gains were in the leisure and hospitality, manufacturing, retail trade, and professional and business services sectors.
In August there remained 22,800 fewer jobs than in February 2020, before the virus impacted the labor market. The 3.6 percent net decrease during that period is close to the 3.5 percent U.S. decrease. In that period jobs remained down the most in leisure and hospitality, state and local government education (K-12 and higher ed), and healthcare and social assistance. There were more jobs in the professional and business services and wholesale trade sectors in August than before the pandemic.
Labor Force and Unemployment Estimates
The number of unemployed was unchanged in August at 33,200 and the unemployment rate remained at 4.9 percent. The 60.3 percent labor force participation rate was little changed, down 0.1 points, and the 57.4 percent employment-to-population rate was unchanged.
Compared to February 2020, the unemployment rate in August was 1.8 percentage points higher, the labor force participation rate was 2.3 points lower, and the employment to population ratio was 3.3 points lower.
The decrease in employment since February 2020 is partially reflected in the 11,600 increase in the number of unemployed. The remainder of the decrease in employment is reflected in lower labor force participation. If participation was as high in August as 17 months earlier, the unemployment rate would be 8.4 percent. (Unemployed are jobless people who were available and seeking work. Jobless people who were not available for work or who did not seek work are not counted as unemployed – they are not in the labor force.)
U.S. and Regional Household Survey Estimates
The U.S. and New England unemployment rates were 5.2 percent and 5.3 percent in August. Rates for other states in the region were 3.0 percent in New Hampshire, 3.0 percent in Vermont, 5.0 percent in Massachusetts, 5.8 percent in Rhode Island, and 7.2 percent in Connecticut.
Substate Not Seasonally Adjusted Substate Data
The not seasonally adjusted statewide unemployment rate of 4.4 percent for August was little changed from 4.3 percent one year ago. Unemployment rates were lowest in Sagadahoc County (3.8 percent) and highest in Somerset and Washington counties (6.2 percent).
Unemployment rates were below the statewide average in the Portland-South Portland metro area (3.9 percent), close to the average in the Bangor metro (4.5 percent), and above the average in the Lewiston-Auburn metro (5.1 percent).
September workforce estimates will be released Friday, October 22 at 10 a.m. (Data Release Schedule).
Monthly workforce estimates are cooperatively produced and released by the Maine Department of Labor, Center for Workforce Research and Information and the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics.
1. Preliminary seasonally-adjusted labor force estimates, including rates (labor force participation, employment, and unemployment rates), and levels (labor force, employed, and unemployed) 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. Annual revisions (published in March each year) tend to moderate or eliminate those directional patterns. A comparison of 2020 preliminary and revised estimates of labor force and unemployment rates, as well as nonfarm payroll jobs, is available at http://www.maine.gov/labor/cwri/blogs/2021_workforce_data_revisions.pdf.
2. The 90 percent confidence interval for statewide unemployment rates for July is 0.8 percentage points above or below the published estimate.
3. To assess job growth, we recommend looking at nonfarm jobs from the payroll survey rather than resident employment from the household survey. The payroll survey is larger, has smaller margins of error, and is subject to smaller revisions. A 2016 blog on the differences in accuracy of the two measures provides more context at www.maine.gov/labor/cwri/blogs/imprecise_data.pdf .
4. Nonfarm payroll jobs estimates tend to be volatile from month to month because there is variability in the sample of reporting employers and their representativeness for the universe of all employers. Additionally, seasonal adjustment is imperfect because weather, the beginning and ending of school semesters, holidays, and other events do not always occur with the same timing relative to the pay period that includes the 12th day of the month, which is the reference period. This sometimes exacerbates monthly volatility. Users should look to the trend over multiple months rather than the change from one specific month to another. Estimates for the period from April 2020 to September 2021 will be replaced with actual payroll data in March 2022. Those benchmark revisions are likely to show less volatility than preliminary estimates do.