Maine saw higher job creation in January, but that has done little to offset tremendous job losses that continue to linger a year after the coronavirus pandemic began.
The Maine Department of Labor reported Monday that the state added 2,000 jobs in January.
The bulk of those jobs — 1,200 — were in state government as the University of Maine System brought back workers laid off after students left their campuses for Thanksgiving and finished the semester remotely. Another 600 jobs were created in the leisure and hospitality sector, mostly to accommodate winter recreation. In remaining sectors, gains were very small, the department said.
January’s job growth represented a sharp jump from December, when only an anemic 400 jobs were added statewide. That comes as Maine saw virus transmission fall sharply since Jan. 14 when 824 new cases were reported. Since then, that decline has stabilized, with new cases hovering in the low triple digits each day.
Overall, Maine saw job losses across all sectors averaging 6 percent, compared with a year ago. Those losses have been most pronounced in leisure and hospitality (22 percent) and public and private education (5 percent). Despite accounting for just 22 percent of the state’s workforce, those two sectors accounted for 59 percent of job losses over the past 12 months, according to the Maine Department of Labor.
Elsewhere in the economy, construction, manufacturing, finance, wholesale trade and professional and business services have nearly recovered all jobs lost since March 2020.
Maine’s jobless rate rose 0.2 percentage points to 5.2 percent in January. That’s down from the pandemic high of 10.4 percent in April 2020, but above 3.2 percent in February 2020, ending a historic streak of record-low employment. The bump in the jobless rate was attributed to a 0.4 percentage point increase in Maine’s labor force participation rate.
That jobless rate is below the national average (6.3 percent) and the average across New England (7 percent). Just two New England states — New Hampshire at 3.6 percent and Vermont at 3.2 percent — have lower levels of joblessness.
Even as joblessness has sharply declined in Maine, there are still 35,100 Mainers without work across the state, according to Maine labor officials. That surpasses the high seen in April 2009 during the Great Recession, when 28,564 Mainers were out of work, state data show.
But that rate of joblessness could be even higher. Maine’s labor force participation rate stands at 59.9 percent, down 3.2 percentage points from a year earlier. It represents 34,100 fewer Mainers in the workforce. The labor force participation rate does not count those who are unemployed but have stopped looking for work.
If Maine’s labor force participation rate stood at its pre-pandemic level, the jobless rate could be as high as 9.4 percent, according to the Department of Labor.