Workforce Conditions in Maine Continued to Gradually Improve in September Bookmark and Share

October 20, 2020

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: October 20, 2020 Contact: Glenn Mills 207-621-5192

Workforce Conditions in Maine Continued to Gradually Improve in September

AUGUSTA - Workforce conditions continued to recover in September from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The monthly payroll and household surveys indicate:

  • Nonfarm payroll jobs increased 4,700 in September
  • 53,900 jobs have been recovered since the April low; the September total remained down 50,600 from February
  • The unemployment rate decreased to 6.1 percent
  • Labor force participation remained lower than normal, causing unemployment estimates to understate the impact of job loss on the labor market

Seasonally Adjusted Estimates

Payroll Survey Estimates The number of nonfarm payroll jobs in Maine increased by 4,700 in September. The private sector added 7,900 jobs, primarily in the manufacturing, leisure and hospitality, retail trade, and professional and business services sectors. The gain in manufacturing jobs was primarily due to the end of the shipbuilders strike in Bath. Jobs in the public sector decreased 3,200, mostly in local governments because seasonal job gains in public education were smaller than normal to the start the school year.

The 586,700 nonfarm jobs in September was up 53,900 from the April low, but remained 50,600 (7.9 percent) lower than in February before the pandemic began to impact the labor market. The highest rates of job loss between February and September were in the leisure and hospitality, information, and private education sectors. All sectors had net job losses between February and April, and most have had net job gains between April and September. The number of jobs in the construction; transportation, warehousing, and utilities; and wholesale and trade sectors was close to pre-pandemic levels in September.

The jobs recovery continued throughout the state in September. The rate of net job loss from February to September was close to the statewide rate in each of the three metro areas and the non-metro balance of the state.

Household Survey Estimates The unemployment rate decreased to 6.1 percent for September from a revised rate of 7.0 percent for August. The number of unemployed decreased 5,900 from August to 41,400 for September.

Unemployment estimates for September understate the level of job displacement that has occurred because health concerns, childcare challenges, and other factors prevented many jobless people from being available to work or from engaging in work search, as they normally would. Those who were not available for work or did not engage in work search were not counted as unemployed they were not in the labor force. If labor force participation was as high as it was in February, Maine's unemployment rate would have been 9.2 percent in September. (This also factors people who expect to return to their job who were classified by survey interviewers as employed, rather than as temporarily unemployed, as they properly should have been.)

U.S and New England Household Survey Estimates The U.S. unemployment rate of 7.9 percent was down from 8.4 percent for August and the New England rate of 8.4 percent was down from 9.5 percent. September rates for other states in the region were 6.0 percent in New Hampshire, 4.2 percent in Vermont, 9.6 percent in Massachusetts, 10.5 percent in Rhode Island, and 7.8 percent in Connecticut.

Not Seasonally Adjusted Substate Estimates

The not seasonally adjusted statewide unemployment rate estimate of 5.4 percent for September was up from 2.3 percent one year ago. Unemployment rates were lowest for Sagadahoc County (4.5 percent) and highest for Oxford County (7.1 percent).

Among the three metro areas, the unemployment rate was at the statewide average in Portland-South Portland (5.4 percent), above it in Lewiston-Auburn (5.8 percent), and below it in Bangor (4.9 percent).

October workforce estimates will be published Friday, November 20 at 10 a.m. (Data Release Schedule ).

This release is available here -

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 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 2019 preliminary and revised estimates of labor force and unemployment rates, as well as nonfarm payroll jobs, is available at .

  2. The 90 percent confidence interval for statewide unemployment rates for September is 0.7 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 at 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 .

  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 October 2019 to September 2020 will be replaced with actual payroll data in March 2021. Those benchmark revisions are likely to show less volatility than preliminary estimates do.