November 18, 2022
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 18, 2022
Contact: Glenn Mills, 207-621-5192
The Employment Situation in Maine - October 2022
Preliminary estimates of nonfarm wage and salary jobs, derived from a survey of employer payrolls, and of unemployment and labor force participation, derived from a survey of households, provided diverging indications on the employment situation in October. This pattern has occurred through most of 2022 and is pronounced this month. Indications from these two surveys sometimes diverge for short periods, but rarely by as much as they have recently. This can also occur nationally, but to a lesser degree because the larger survey panels provide more reliable estimates.
For October the preliminary estimate of nonfarm jobs increased by 3,000 to 641,900, an all-time high. According to these estimates the number of jobs is up 9,100 since June. This is a large gain for four months that portrays strengthening workforce conditions. The unemployment rate estimate increased 0.3 points to 3.6 percent and the labor force participation rate decreased 0.1 points to 58.3 percent in the month. According to these estimates, unemployment is up 0.8 points since July and labor force participation is down 0.7 points since June. These are large changes for three or four months that portray deteriorating conditions.
Rising unemployment in an environment of strong job gains occasionally occurs from increased labor force participation as the positive hiring environment prompts some people to enter the labor force. That is not what preliminary estimates have portrayed since summer. How should the contrary indications from these two surveys be interpreted?
The payroll survey is large, collecting information from 2,700 employer establishments that include one-third of all nonfarm wage and salary jobs. Over a one- or two-month period job estimates can be inaccurate in direction, but over a sequence of several months they tend to provide a reliable indication of trends. The household survey is smaller, collecting information from 500 households representing one percent of the population. The unemployment and labor force participation estimates that come from it are revised each year over the course of several years. Representations of conditions for a given period can be quite different after those annual revisions. It appears that labor force participation has been understated for recent months and will be revised higher, and that unemployment was understated in the summer and will be revised higher for those months. Payroll jobs estimates have provided a more reliable indication of the employment situation in Maine for much of 2022.
This news release presents estimates derived from two monthly surveys. The Current Population Survey collects information from households on labor force status, including labor force participation, employment, and unemployment. The Current Employment Statistics survey collects information from nonfarm employers by industry on the number of jobs, hours worked, and wages paid to individuals on their payrolls. Both surveys are controlled by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Statewide Seasonally Adjusted Labor Force Estimates
The 3.6 percent unemployment rate increased from 3.3 percent, and labor force participation and employment rates edged down to 58.3 and 56.2 percent in the month. Unemployment was higher and labor force participation and employment rates were lower than rates that prevailed shortly before the pandemic.
Three-month averages generally provide a better indication of workforce conditions as they smooth some of the variability in sample-based estimates, and they reflect revisions for previous months. The 3.3 percent average unemployment rate for August to October was up from 3.0 percent for the three months through July. In that period average labor force participation and employment rates decreased.
The unemployment rate for Maine was close to the 3.7 and 3.4 percent rates for the U.S. and New England for October.
Statewide Seasonally Adjusted Nonfarm Jobs Estimates
Total nonfarm wage and salary jobs increased by 3,000 in October to 641,900, following a downward revision of 700 jobs for the September estimate. The largest increases in the month were in the retail trade, healthcare and social assistance, and leisure and hospitality sectors.
In the three months through October the number of jobs increased an average of 1,500 per month over the previous three months through July. The three-month average was 0.3 percentage points higher than the average for calendar year 2019, before the pandemic. Private sector jobs were 0.6 percent higher and government jobs were 1.3 percent lower, mostly in public higher education.
County and Metro Area Not Seasonally Adjusted Labor Force Estimates
On a not seasonally-adjusted basis the statewide unemployment rate was 3.4 percent. Of the 16 counties, rates were at least 0.3 percentage points higher than that in six counties, at least 0.3 points lower than that in three, and close to the average in seven. Rates ranged from a low of 2.9 percent in Sagadahoc County to a high of 4.8 percent in Somerset County.
Among the three metro areas of the state, unemployment was below the statewide average in Portland-S. Portland (2.9 percent) and close to the average in Bangor (3.3 percent) and Lewiston-Auburn (3.6 percent).
(For substate areas, labor force estimates, including unemployment rates, are not seasonally adjusted. Because of this, estimates for a certain month should be compared to the same month in other years and should not be compared to other months.)
Statewide and Metro Area Not Seasonally Adjusted Hours and Earnings Estimates
The private sector workweek averaged 33.9 hours and earnings averaged $29.32 per hour in October. Hourly earnings increased 5.4 percent from a year earlier, led by a 10.1 percent gain in trade, transportation, and utilities. The workweek was longest in construction and shortest in leisure and hospitality. Earnings were highest in professional and business services and lowest in leisure and hospitality.
Hourly earnings were higher than the statewide average in the Portland-S. Portland metro and lower in Bangor and Lewiston-Auburn.
This news release is available in a more accessible format here - https://www.maine.gov/labor/cwri/news/release.html
November workforce estimates will be released Friday, December 16 at 10 a.m. The data release schedule is here - https://www.maine.gov/labor/cwri/releaseDates.html
Nonfarm jobs data is available here - https://www.maine.gov/labor/cwri/ces.html
Unemployment and labor force data is available here - https://www.maine.gov/labor/cwri/ces.html
Preliminary seasonally-adjusted labor force estimates, including rates (labor force participation, employment, and unemployment rates), and levels (labor force, employed, and unemployed), as well as nonfarm wage and salary job estimates are inexact. Annual revisions (published in March each year) add accuracy. A comparison of 2020 and 2021 revised and previously published estimates is available in this blog - https://www.maine.gov/labor/cwri/blogs/2022workforcedata_revisions.pdf .
The 90 percent confidence interval for the statewide seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for October was between 2.9 and 4.4.
Nonfarm wage and salary jobs from the payroll survey provide a better indication of changes in employment than resident employment from the household survey. The payroll survey is larger and has smaller margins of error.
Nonfarm payroll jobs estimates tend to be volatile from month to month because of variability in the sample of reporting employers and their representativeness of all employers. Seasonal adjustment is imperfect because weather, the beginning and ending of school semesters, 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 changes in jobs estimates. Users should look to the trend over multiple months rather than the change from one specific month to another. Jobs estimates for the period from April 2021 to September 2022 will be replaced with payroll data in March 2023. Those benchmark revisions usually show less monthly variability than preliminary estimates do.