Employment Situation in Maine - December 2021 Bookmark and Share

January 25, 2022


Employment Situation in Maine - December 2021

AUGUSTA There was modest improvement in workforce conditions in the month:

  • The number of nonfarm payroll jobs increased by 1,800
  • The unemployment rate decreased to 4.7 percent

Seasonally Adjusted Estimates

Nonfarm Payroll Jobs Estimates Nonfarm payroll jobs increased by 1,800 in December to 616,300 after an upward revision of 1,400 to the November estimate. This was the highest number of jobs since July and the second highest total in 21 months. Jobs increased by 1,000 in leisure and hospitality and by 500 in wholesale and retail trade. There was little change in most other sectors during the month.

In December there were 3.7 percent fewer jobs than in February 2020, before the virus impacted the labor market. The private sector reached a pandemic-era high of 520,400 jobs in the month, but remained down 3.3 percent. Jobs in government remained down 6.1 percent.

Of the pandemic-era net decrease in jobs, 49 percent has been in the leisure and hospitality sector, mostly in restaurants and bars, 27 percent in state and local governments, mostly in schools, and 21 percent in healthcare and social assistance, mostly in social assistance and nursing and residential care facilities.

Labor Force and Unemployment Estimates The unemployment rate decreased slightly to 4.7 percent from a revised 4.9 percent estimate for November. This is the lowest rate since March 2020. The labor force participation rate was 60.1 percent. It has remained between 60.1 and 60.4 percent for the last nine months.

The unemployment rate in December was 1.6 percentage points higher and the labor force participation rate was 2.5 points lower than in February 2020. The decrease in employment since then is partially reflected in the 10,200 increase in the number of unemployed. The remainder of the decrease in employment is due to fewer people in the labor force.

U.S and New England Unemployment Rates The U.S. and New England unemployment rates were 3.9 and 4.3 percent for December. Rates for other states in the region were 2.6 percent in New Hampshire, 2.5 percent in Vermont, 3.9 percent in Massachusetts, 4.8 percent in Rhode Island, and 5.8 percent in Connecticut.

Not Seasonally Adjusted Substate Estimates

The not seasonally adjusted statewide unemployment rate of 4.0 percent for December was down from 5.0 percent one year ago. Unemployment rates were lowest in Sagadahoc County (3.2 percent) and highest in Somerset County (5.6 percent).

Unemployment rates were below the statewide average in the Portland-South Portland metro area (3.4 percent), and close to the average in the Bangor (3.8 percent) and Lewiston-Auburn (4.0 percent) metros.

Due to annual data revisions, release of January 2022 estimates will be delayed until Monday, March 14 at 10 a.m. Revised statewide data for prior years, including 2021 annual averages, will be published Wednesday, March 2. (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 December is 0.8 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 survey 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.