March 12, 2018
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: March 12, 2018
Contact: Glenn Mills 207-621-5192
AUGUSTA – Labor market conditions in Maine continued to be strong at the beginning of 2018.
Seasonally Adjusted Statewide Data
Household Survey Estimates – The preliminary seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 3.0 percent for January was down from revised rates of 3.1 percent for December and 3.4 percent one year ago. The number of unemployed declined 2,500 over the year to 21,000.
Recently completed annual data revisions indicate there was less monthly variation in unemployment in 2017 than previously released preliminary estimates indicated. Preliminary estimates ranged from 3.0 to 3.8 percent during the year; revised rates for 2017 range from 3.1 to 3.5 percent.
Maine’s unemployment rate has been below 4.0 percent for 26 consecutive months, the longest such period since the current methodology was implemented in 1976. The previous long was 22 months from 1999 to 2001. Nationally, unemployment has been below 4.0 percent in just five months, all in 2000.
The U.S. preliminary unemployment rate of 4.1 percent for January was unchanged from December and down from 4.8 percent one year ago. The New England average was 3.7 percent.
January unemployment estimates for other states in the region were 2.6 percent in New Hampshire, 2.9 percent in Vermont, 3.5 percent in Massachusetts, 4.5 percent in Rhode Island, and 4.5 percent in Connecticut.
The employment to population ratio estimate of 61.5 percent remained above the 60.1 percent U.S. average.
Payroll Survey Estimates – The 622,600 preliminary nonfarm payroll jobs estimate for January was unchanged from one year ago. Job gains primarily in the healthcare and social assistance and the professional and business services sectors were offset by job losses in the leisure and hospitality and the retail trade sectors, each of which was impacted by unusually extreme weather.
Not Seasonally Adjusted Substate Data
The not seasonally adjusted statewide unemployment rate estimate of 3.4 percent for January was down from 4.0 percent one year ago. Unemployment rates decreased over the year in all counties. The lowest rate was 2.4 percent in Cumberland County and the highest was 5.4 percent in Washington County.
The unemployment rate was below the statewide average in all three metro areas: Portland-South Portland (2.5 percent), Lewiston-Auburn (3.0 percent), and Bangor (3.3 percent).
February workforce estimates will be released Friday, March 23 (Data Release Schedule: http://www.maine.gov/labor/cwri/releaseDates.html ). The release cycle will return to the third Friday of each month in April, two weeks after the national release on the first Friday of each month.
This release is available at http://www.maine.gov/labor/cwri/news/release.html .
Labor force and unemployment data is available at http://www.maine.gov/labor/cwri/laus1.html .
Nonfarm payroll jobs data is available at http://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 the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Preliminary 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 2017 preliminary and revised unemployment rate estimates is available at http://www.maine.gov/labor/cwri/blogs/2017workforcedata_revisions.pdf .
The 90 percent confidence interval for statewide unemployment rates in 2018 is 0.5 percentage points above or below the published estimate each month.
To assess employment growth, we recommend looking at nonfarm jobs from the payroll survey rather than resident employment from the household survey. The payroll survey is larger, has smaller margins of error, and is subject to smaller revisions. More on the differences in accuracy of the two measures is at http://www.maine.gov/labor/cwri/blogs/imprecise_data.pdf .
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 and holidays, and other events do not always occur with the same timing, which can exacerbate 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 2017 to September 2018 will be replaced with actual payroll data in March 2019. Those benchmark revisions are likely to show less volatility than preliminary estimates.