April Workforce Conditions in Maine Bookmark and Share

May 21, 2021


April Workforce Conditions in Maine

AUGUSTA - The spring recovery in workforce conditions continued with job gains in most sectors and a substantial upward revision to March jobs estimates. In April:

  • Nonfarm payroll jobs increased in most sectors
  • Labor force participation modestly increased
  • The unemployment rate remained 4.8 percent for the third consecutive month

Seasonally Adjusted Estimates

Nonfarm Payroll Jobs Estimates The number of nonfarm payroll jobs increased in most sectors of the economy in April, though the 610,800 jobs was down 1,600 from March. The decrease is the result of unusual seasonal changes in education and an unusually large upward revision to March jobs estimates. Aside from these issues, the underlying jobs trend remained positive in April, reflecting a more open economy. The state added 9,600 jobs over the first four months of 2021, following four months of little change at the end of 2020.

Excluding education, the number of private sector jobs increased by 1,200 between March and April. The largest gains were in the construction, retail trade, and professional and business services sectors. This is on top an upward revision of 2,600 private sector, non-education jobs in March. In the two months combined, private non-education sectors added 5,000 jobs.

The number of jobs in public and private education was 2,700 lower than in March, but was higher than for any other month since September. The March figure was unusually high because the University of Maine and some private colleges reduced spring break and kept most students on campus as part of their efforts to contain the spread of the virus. In the two months combined, public and private education added 300 jobs.

The number of nonfarm jobs increased 65,400 from a year-ago, when the state had the lowest number of jobs in 24 years as the pandemic forced many workplaces to close or reduce operations. The largest gains over the year were in the sectors most impacted at the beginning of the pandemic: leisure and hospitality, retail trade, healthcare and social assistance, and manufacturing.

There remained 29,200 fewer jobs than in February 2020, before the virus impacted the labor market. Maine had 4.6 percent fewer jobs than 14 months ago, compared to the national 5.4 percent net decrease. Over that period, jobs remained down the most in leisure and hospitality, public and private education (K-12 and higher ed), and healthcare and social assistance. The construction and the professional and business services sectors have fully recovered to February 2020 levels, and retail trade, manufacturing, and a few other sectors have nearly recovered to pre-pandemic levels.

Labor Force and Unemployment Estimates In April the number of unemployed was little changed from March at 32,500, and the unemployment rate was unchanged, remaining at 4.8 percent for the third consecutive month. The labor force participation rate was little changed, edging up 0.1 points to 60.1 percent.

Over the last year, the unemployment rate decreased sharply from the pandemic-induced peak of 9.1 percent in April 2020, though it remained elevated from the 3.1 percent rate of February 2020. The same is true for labor force participation. The share of the population age 16 and over in the labor force increased 1.5 percentage points from a year ago, though it remained 2.5 points lower than in February 2020.

The lower rate of participation in the labor force than before the pandemic continued to cause unemployment data to understate the impact of the decrease in the number of jobs. If participation in April was as high as it was 14 months earlier, the number of unemployed would be 28,300 higher and the unemployment rate would be 8.7 percent.

U.S and New England Unemployment Rates The U.S. and New England unemployment rates were 6.1 percent and 6.2 percent in April. Rates for other states in the region were 2.8 percent in New Hampshire, 2.9 percent in Vermont, 6.5 percent in Massachusetts, 6.3 percent in Rhode Island, and 8.1 percent in Connecticut.

Not Seasonally Adjusted Substate Estimates

The not seasonally adjusted statewide unemployment rate of 5.3 percent for April was down from 9.8 percent one year ago. Unemployment rates were lowest in Sagadahoc County (4.1 percent) and highest in Washington County (7.5 percent).

Unemployment rates were below the statewide average in all three metro areas: Bangor (4.9 percent), Portland-South Portland (4.6 percent), and Lewiston-Auburn (5.2 percent).

May workforce estimates will be released Wednesday, June 23 at 10 a.m. (Data Release Schedule) - https://www.maine.gov/labor/cwri/releaseDates.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 April is 1.0 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 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.