The Employment Situation in Maine - May 2023 Bookmark and Share

June 16, 2023

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 16, 2023 Contact: Glenn Mills, 207-621-5192

The Employment Situation in Maine - May 2023

Labor market conditions remained positive in May, with jobs and unemployment at record levels. The 646,900 nonfarm wage and salary jobs matched the high previously reached in December; the 2.4 percent unemployment rate matched the low previously reached in April.

This news release presents estimates derived from two monthly surveys. The Current Population Survey collects information from households on labor force status, including labor force participation, employment, and unemployment. The Current Employment Statistics survey collects information from nonfarm employers by industry on the number of jobs, hours worked, and wages paid to individuals on their payrolls. Both surveys are administered by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Preliminary estimates from the two surveys sometimes diverge in direction or magnitude of change. Annual revisions published each spring tend to bring them in to better alignment.

Statewide Seasonally Adjusted Labor Force Estimates

The unemployment rate remained 2.4 percent in May. The rate has been below four percent for 18 consecutive months, tied for the third longest period on record. Labor force participation and employment rates edged up in the month. The employment-to-population ratio increased for the fifth consecutive month.

Three-month averages generally provide a better indication of workforce conditions as they smooth some of the variability in sample-based estimates and they reflect revisions for previous months. The 2.5 percent average unemployment rate for March to May is down from 2.9 percent for the three months through February. In that period average labor force participation and employment rates increased.

The unemployment rate for Maine was below U.S. and New England 3.7 and 3.0 percent rates for May.

Statewide Seasonally Adjusted Nonfarm Jobs Estimates

Total nonfarm wage and salary jobs increased 1,200 in May to 646,900, matching the record high previously reached in December. The number of jobs has fluctuated in a small range and has essentially been unchanged for seven months. The most notable change in May was an increase of 600 jobs in healthcare and social assistance.

In the three months through May the number of jobs decreased an average of 200 per month over the three months through February. The three-month average was 1.4 percentage points higher than the average for calendar year 2019, before the pandemic. Private sector jobs were 1.9 percent higher and government jobs were 1.2 percent lower, mostly in public higher education.

County and Metro Area Not Seasonally Adjusted Labor Force Estimates

On a not seasonally-adjusted basis the statewide unemployment rate was 2.6 percent. Of the 16 counties, rates were at least 0.3 percentage points higher than that in six counties, at least 0.3 points lower than that in four, and close to the average in six. Rates were lowest in Sagadahoc and York and highest in Aroostook counties.

Among the three metro areas of the state, unemployment was below the statewide average in Portland-S. Portland and close to the average in Bangor and Lewiston-Auburn.

(Labor force estimates for substate areas, including unemployment rates, are not seasonally adjusted. Because of this, estimates for a certain month should be compared to the same month in other years and should not be compared to other months.)

Statewide and Metro Area Not Seasonally Adjusted Hours and Earnings Estimates

The private sector workweek averaged 33.5 hours and earnings averaged $30.01 per hour in May. Average hours decreased 0.7 and hourly earnings increased 3.9 percent from a year earlier. Earnings increases were led by an 8.2 percent gain in manufacturing. The workweek was longest in construction and shortest in leisure and hospitality. Earnings were highest in professional and business services and lowest in leisure and hospitality.

Hourly earnings were higher than the statewide average in the Portland-S. Portland metro and lower in Bangor and Lewiston-Auburn.


  1. Preliminary seasonally-adjusted labor force estimates, including rates (labor force participation, employment, and unemployment rates), and levels (labor force, employed, and unemployed), as well as nonfarm wage and salary job estimates are inexact. Annual revisions (published in March each year) add accuracy. A comparison of 2021 and 2022 revised and previously published estimates is available in this blog.

  2. The 90 percent confidence interval for the statewide seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for May was between 1.6 and 3.1 percent.

  3. Nonfarm wage and salary jobs from the payroll survey provide a better indication of changes in employment than resident employment from the household survey. The payroll survey is larger and has smaller margins of error.

  4. Nonfarm payroll jobs estimates tend to be variable from month to month because the representativeness of reporting employers can differ. Seasonal adjustment is imperfect because weather, the beginning and ending of school semesters, 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 survey reference period. This sometimes exacerbates monthly changes in jobs estimates. Users should look to the trend over multiple months rather than the change from one specific month to another. Jobs estimates for the period from April 2022 to September 2023 will be replaced with payroll data in March 2024. Those benchmark revisions usually show less monthly variability than preliminary estimates do.

Maine CareerCenters and Maine Department of Labor are equal opportunity providers. Auxiliary aids and services are available to individuals with disabilities upon request.