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Contact: Glenn Mills 207-621-5192

Maine Unemployment Rate 2.9 Percent in December

AUGUSTA -- The Maine Department of Labor and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released November workforce estimates for the state.

Seasonally Adjusted Statewide Data

Maine Household Survey Estimates

The preliminary seasonally adjusted unemployment rate estimate of 2.9 percent for December is little changed from 2.8 percent in November and down from 3.5 percent one year ago. The number of unemployed is down 4,700 over the year to 19,700. Maine’s unemployment rate has been below 4.0 percent for 48 consecutive months.


Maine Payroll Survey Estimates

The preliminary estimate of 635,300 nonfarm payroll jobs in December is up 7,400 from one year ago. The private sector estimate of 535,100 jobs is up 7,400 over the year, with the largest job gains in the construction, leisure and hospitality, and retail trade sectors. The government estimate of 100,200 jobs has not changed significantly in the last five years. The 15.8 percent share of jobs in government remains the lowest on record.


National and Regional Household Survey Estimates

The U.S. preliminary unemployment rate of 3.5 percent for December is unchanged from November and down from 3.9 percent one year ago. The December estimate for New England is little changed at 3.0 percent. Rates for other states in the region are 2.6 percent in New Hampshire, 2.3 percent in Vermont, 2.8 percent in Massachusetts, 3.5 percent in Rhode Island, and 3.7 percent in Connecticut.

The employment to population ratio estimate for Maine of 60.5 percent is slightly lower than the 61.0 percent U.S. average for November. (Labor force and unemployment estimates are based on the population age 16 and over. The lower rate in Maine reflects the fact that we have a higher share of retirement-age population.)


Not Seasonally Adjusted Substate Data

The not seasonally adjusted statewide unemployment rate estimate of 2.8 percent for December is down from 3.4 percent one year ago. Unemployment estimates are lowest for Sagadahoc and Cumberland County (2.2 percent) and highest for Somerset County (4.5 percent).


Unemployment rates decreased from one year ago in all 16 counties and are the lowest on record for December in Hancock, Kennebec, Oxford, Penobscot, Waldo, and Washington Counties (previous lows for other counties were in 1999, 2000, or 2017). Rates are also the lowest on record in the Bangor metropolitan area (2.7 percent). The rate in Portland-South Portland was 2.3 percent and in Lewiston-Auburn was 2.7 percent.


Due to annual data revisions, release of January 2020 estimates will be delayed until Monday, March 16. Revised data for prior years, including 2019 annual averages, will be published Wednesday, March 4. (Data Release Schedule).

Labor force and unemployment data is available here.

Nonfarm payroll jobs data is available here.

Monthly workforce estimates are cooperatively produced and released by the Maine Department of Labor, Center for Workforce Research and the U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics.


1.Preliminary 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 April each year) tend to moderate or eliminate those directional patterns. A comparison of 2018 preliminary and revised unemployment rate estimates is available at

2. The 90 percent confidence interval for statewide unemployment rates in 2019 is 0.5 to 0.7 percentage points above or below the published estimate each month

3.To assess employment 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. More on the differences in accuracy of the two measures is at .

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 and holidays, and other events do not always occur with the same timing, which can exacerbate 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 October 2018 to September 2019 will be replaced with actual payroll data in March 2020. Those benchmark revisions are likely to show less volatility than preliminary estimates.