Maine employers added 1,600 net jobs in October, the slowest rate of job growth since the state’s economy began its post-lockdown recovery last spring.

The state has recovered about 56,400 jobs since unemployment surged during mandated business closures and a stay-at-home order in April. But the total number of jobs in the state in October was still 48,100 lower than in February, according to Maine Department of Labor estimates.

Private employers added 3,900 jobs over the course of the month, primarily in leisure, hospitality, retail trade and other sectors. Those gains were offset by a loss of 2,300 public sector jobs, mainly from the end of temporary employment for the U.S. Census Bureau, according to state labor surveys. The net increase of 1,600 jobs was down 65 percent from the 4,700 jobs recovered in September.

Much of the job gains in October were in sectors hit hardest by the pandemic, including hospitality and leisure establishments, the department reported.

The private sector job gain “was on the lower end, but generally in line with the trend since June,” said Glenn Mills, deputy director of the Maine Center for Workforce Research.

“The end of temporary jobs for the 2020 Census and a small decrease in public education offset much of that gain,” Mills said. “Job growth has been slower in the fall than it was in May and June throughout the nation.”

The slower rate of job growth this fall is the result of a combination of factors, including lower demand for the services of some businesses and constrained activities and closures of others, Mills added. Health concerns and child care challenges also prevent some people from working as much as they would like or at all, he said.

Maine’s unemployment rate dipped down to 5.4 percent in October, less than a percentage point decline from September’s rate of 6.1 percent. Prior to the pandemic, Maine had experienced a prolonged period in which the unemployment rate was below 4 percent.

The unemployment rate in the Portland-South Portland region was about 4.7 percent, slightly lower than the state total. The national unemployment rate in October was 6.9 percent.

Since the pandemic began, the unusually high number of workers who have not been included in the labor force and do not count as unemployed in government surveys has obscured the full impact of joblessness in Maine.

“Unemployment estimates for October understate the level of job displacement that has occurred because health concerns, childcare challenges, and other factors prevented many jobless people from being available to work or from engaging in work search,” the department said in a news release.

Other workers who still anticipate returning to their old jobs may have been misclassified as employed instead of temporarily unemployed in U.S. government surveys, adding to an inaccurate unemployment rate, the department said.

“Misclassification of many temporarily unemployed has been a problem throughout the pandemic that federal statistical agencies continue to be challenged by,” it said.

If labor force participation was as high last month as it was in February, the state’s unemployment rate would be around 9.3 percent, according to state labor economists.


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