February Workforce Conditions in Maine Bookmark and Share

March 26, 2021


Contact: Glenn Mills 207-621-5192

February Workforce Conditions in Maine

AUGUSTA - Workforce conditions in Maine continued to gradually improve in February:

  • Nonfarm payroll jobs were up 2,800
  • Labor force participation was little changed at 60 percent
  • The unemployment rate was 4.8 percent

Seasonally Adjusted Estimates

Nonfarm Payroll Jobs Estimates The number of nonfarm payroll jobs increased 2,800 to 605,800 in February. Over the month job gains were primarily in the professional and business services, retail trade, and manufacturing sectors. Changes in most other sectors were small.

There were 34,200 fewer jobs than one year ago. The 5.3 percent decrease is close to the 6.2 percent national rate of net job loss. Jobs remained down 16,100 (23 percent) in the leisure and hospitality sector and 5,800 (eight percent) in public and private education, both K-12 and higher ed combined. Those two sectors, which accounted for 21 percent of jobs a year ago, experienced 64 percent of the net job loss over the year.

The number of jobs in the professional and business services, construction, and manufacturing sectors, each of which lost jobs at the beginning of the pandemic last spring, have mostly recovered. Along with federal government, each was within one percent of its level from a year ago in February.

Labor Force and Unemployment Estimates The number of unemployed decreased 2,500 to 32,500, pushing the unemployment rate down from 5.2 to 4.8 percent in February. Labor force participation was little changed at 60 percent.

Unemployment was up 1.7 percentage points and labor force participation down 2.6 points from year ago rates. If participation was as high as a year ago, the number of unemployed would be 29,400 higher and the unemployment rate would be 8.8 percent.

U.S and New England Unemployment Estimates The U.S. unemployment rate was 6.3 percent and the New England rate was 6.7 percent in February. Rates for other states in the region were 3.3 percent in New Hampshire, 3.3 percent in Vermont, 7.2 percent in Massachusetts, 7.9 percent in Rhode Island, and 8.5 percent in Connecticut.

Not Seasonally Adjusted Substate Estimates

The not seasonally adjusted statewide unemployment rate of 5.6 percent for February was up from 3.4 percent one year ago. Unemployment rates were lowest in Sagadahoc County (4.4 percent) and highest in Washington County (8.0 percent). Unemployment rates were below the statewide average in all three metro areas: Bangor (5.0 percent), Portland-South Portland (5.0 percent), and Lewiston-Auburn (5.3 percent).

March estimates will be released Friday, April 16 at 10 a.m. (Data Release Schedule - https://www.maine.gov/labor/cwri/releaseDates.html).

This release is available here - https://www.maine.gov/labor/cwri/news/release.html .

Labor force and unemployment data is available here - https://www.maine.gov/labor/cwri/laus1.html .

Nonfarm payroll jobs data is available here - https://www.maine.gov/labor/cwri/ces1.html .

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 https://www.maine.gov/labor/cwri/blogs/2021workforcedata_revisions.pdf

  2. The 90 percent confidence interval for statewide unemployment rates for February is 1.0 percentage points above or below the published estimate.

  3. To assess job change, 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 https://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.