The Employment Situation in Maine - February 2024 Bookmark and Share

March 22, 2024

Released: Friday, March 22, 2024 at 10 a.m. Contact: Glenn Mills, 207-530-2079

The Employment Situation in Maine - February 2024

Nonfarm jobs increased to a new high for the fourth consecutive month and the 3.4 percent unemployment rate was unchanged for the fifth month.

These estimates are 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 wage and salary 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. Over extended periods they tend to be more aligned.

Seasonally Adjusted Statewide Labor Force Estimates

The preliminary unemployment rate was 3.4 percent - unchanged since October. The average for the three-month period through February was 0.1 points higher than for the preceding three months through November. This resulted from a slight decrease in the employment rate found in the survey of households, a pattern that is at odds with indications from the larger payroll survey, which tends to be more reliable over several months.

Unemployment has been below four percent for 27 months the second longest such period and below the U.S. average for all but two months in more than 16 years. Unemployment remains below the long-term average for the state. (The average since the current methodology was adopted in January 1976 is 5.5 percent.)

Unemployment averaged 3.4 percent for New England and 3.9 percent for the U.S. in February.

Seasonally Adjusted Statewide Nonfarm Jobs Estimates

The preliminary estimate of 656,200 nonfarm wage and salary jobs was up 700 over the month and 9,400 over the year. Jobs reached a new high for the fourth consecutive month. The February increase was close to the 800 monthly average gain in the last 12 months.

Jobs in healthcare and social assistance increased 6,000 over the year, accounting for close to two-thirds of net job growth. The sector increased 0.7 points to 17 percent of jobs, its highest share on record, except for the first 11 months after the onset of the pandemic in 2020. The share of jobs was little changed in other sectors.

Not Seasonally Adjusted County and Metro Area Labor Force Estimates

On a not seasonally adjusted basis the statewide unemployment rate was 3.9 percent. Rates were at least 0.3 percentage points higher than that in nine counties, at least 0.3 points lower than that in three, and close to the average in four. Rates were lowest in Sagadahoc and highest in Piscataquis 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 in the same or other years.)

Not Seasonally Adjusted Statewide and Metro Area Hours and Earnings Estimates

The private sector workweek averaged 32.8 hours and earnings averaged $31.33 per hour in February. Average hours decreased 0.8 and hourly earnings increased 4.7 percent from a year ago. Earnings increases were led by an eight percent gain in professional and business services. 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 slightly lower in the Bangor and Lewiston-Auburn metros.


  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 2022 and 2023 revised and previously published estimates is available in this blog - .
  2. The 90 percent confidence interval for the statewide seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for February was between 2.7 and 4.1 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 2023 to September 2024 will be replaced with payroll data in March 2025. Those benchmark revisions usually show less monthly variability than previously published estimates.