Maine’s unemployment rate rose slightly in June to 7.5 percent, up from 7.4 percent in May, marking the fifth time this year the unemployment level has inched higher, according to the state Department of Labor. Jobs in education, health care and retail grew slightly, but those gains were offset by declines in state and municipal employment.

Unemployment has ticked slowly higher since January, when the level stood at 7.0 percent. The state attributed the rise to declines in the estimated number of employed people, partially reversing the rapid rise in employment that household surveys showed in the latter part of 2011.

“This is another monthly jobs report that doesn’t indicate a lot of improvement. We’ve barely climbed off the bottom at all. The monthly job reports show stagnation in the labor market,” said Joel Johnson, a policy analyst at the Maine Center for Economic Policy.

Regardless of the steady increase in the unemployment rate since the start of the year, economists said the preliminary, seasonally adjusted data may change and show more stability once the numbers are revised next year.

“The month-to-month fluctuations need to be taken with a grain of salt,” Johnson said.

Regardless of the higher rate of unemployment, Maine continues to fare better than the nation. The state has lower unemployment, higher rates of labor force participation, and a higher share of population that is employed than the nation as a whole, according the state Department of Labor.

Nationally, the U.S. unemployment rate in June was 8.2 percent, unchanged from May, and down from 9.1 percent a year ago. Maine has had lower unemployment than the national average throughout the entire economic downturn.

In June, the ranks of Maine unemployed totaled 52,900, down 800 from a year-earlier when unemployment totaled 7.6 percent.

“We are one small state in a national economy trapped in an international downturn,” said Glenn Mills, chief economist of the Maine Department of Labor’s Center for Workforce Research. “It’s not conducive to a lot of growth.”

For the month of June, the unemployment rate for all of New England was 6.8 percent. Rates in other states in the region ranged from 4.7 percent in Vermont to 10.9 percent in Rhode Island.

Maine is still several years away from returning to pre-recession levels of roughly 620,000 in total nonfarm payroll jobs, Mills said.

There were 591,400 nonfarm payroll jobs in June, down 600 jobs from May.

“The number of jobs in the state has been very flat for about two years. We had the naval base closure last year, but overall things are about the same,” Mills said. “In most sectors, there’s not a lot of change.”

An estimated 7,000 people moved after the closure of Brunswick Naval Air Station, according to the state.

Areas that have seen growth in the past year include education and health care, as well as professional services, Mills said. There’s been some stabilization in manufacturing and construction jobs, which were areas that were hard-hit during the recession, and retail has shown a slight uptick from a year ago.

“Really, there’s no change. The increases are negligible,” Mills said.

The numbers, not seasonally adjusted, showed disparity in unemployment rates in different areas of the state. The statewide average was 7.2 percent in June, but fell as low as 6.1 percent in York and Lincoln counties, and rose as high as 10.2 percent in Washington and Franklin counties, according to the Department of Labor.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.