May Workforce Conditions in Maine Bookmark and Share

June 23, 2021


May Workforce Conditions in Maine

AUGUSTA - There was little change in workforce conditions between April and May:

  • Nonfarm payroll jobs were little changed
  • The 4.7 percent unemployment rate was little changed
  • Labor force participation was unchanged

Seasonally Adjusted Estimates

Nonfarm Payroll Jobs Estimates The number of nonfarm payroll jobs was little changed in May, down 600 to 610,600. Decreases in construction and manufacturing jobs were mostly offset by increases in wholesale and retail trade and other services.

The number of nonfarm jobs increased 52,800 from a year-ago. The largest gains over the year were in the sectors most impacted at the beginning of the pandemic: leisure and hospitality, retail trade, and healthcare and social assistance.

There remained 29,400 fewer jobs than in February 2020, before the virus impacted the labor market. Maine had 4.6 percent fewer jobs than 15 months earlier, compared to the national 5.0 percent 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.

Labor Force and Unemployment Estimates In May the number of unemployed was down 1,100 to 31,400 and the unemployment rate was 4.7 percent following three consecutive months at 4.8 percent. The labor force participation rate was unchanged at 60.1 percent.

Over the last year, the unemployment rate decreased sharply from the pandemic-induced 8.3 percent in May 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 0.9 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 May was as high as it was 15 months earlier, the number of unemployed would be 28,500 higher and the unemployment rate would be 8.5 percent.

U.S and New England Unemployment Rates The U.S. and New England unemployment rates were 5.8 percent and 5.9 percent in May. Rates for other states in the region were 2.5 percent in New Hampshire, 2.6 percent in Vermont, 6.1 percent in Massachusetts, 5.8 percent in Rhode Island, and 7.7 percent in Connecticut.

Substate Not Seasonally Adjusted Estimates

The not seasonally adjusted statewide unemployment rate of 4.7 percent for May was down from 8.7 percent one year ago. Unemployment rates were lowest in Sagadahoc County (3.7 percent) and highest in Washington County (6.6 percent).

Unemployment rates were below the statewide average in the Bangor (4.4 percent) and Portland-South Portland (4.2 percent) metro areas, and above the average in Lewiston-Auburn (4.9 percent).

June workforce estimates will be released Friday, July 16 at 10 a.m. (Data Release Schedule) -

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

  2. The 90 percent confidence interval for statewide unemployment rates for May 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

  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.