Maine’s job recovery continues in February

Maine gained 2,800 jobs in February, the highest number of new jobs since the statewide labor market’s recovery sputtered out this winter, according to Maine Department of Labor’s monthly jobs report.

The unemployment rate dropped to 4.8 percent statewide, the lowest since the pandemic triggered a tsunami of job losses a year ago. January’s unemployment rate in Maine was 5.2 percent.

The state’s actual unemployment rate could be double the official rate if the number of people working or looking for work was as high in February as it was last year, the labor department said Friday. Maine’s workforce participation rate in February held steady from the previous month at about 60 percent, it said.

The job gains in February were mostly in the professional and business services sector, retail trade and manufacturing, according to the department.

Jobs in many sectors have recovered from the shock to the labor market last year, it reported. Professional and business services, construction and manufacturing returned to the same employment levels in February that they were a year earlier, just before the coronavirus pandemic struck.

“Along with federal government, each was within 1 percent of its level a year ago in February,” the department said in its report.

The number of jobs in Maine remained down 34,200 compared with a year earlier. Some sectors that have been hit hard by the pandemic recession have yet to recover jobs. There were more than 16,000 fewer jobs in leisure and hospitality businesses, and 5,800 fewer in public and private education, than a year earlier.

Maine’s unemployment rate was lower than the national rate of 6.3 percent, and New England rate of 6.7 percent. The state’s unemployment rate was higher than New Hampshire or Vermont, but lower than Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut.

Sagadahoc, Cumberland and Kennebec counties had the lowest unemployment rates, between 4.4 and 4.8 percent. Somerset, Hancock and Washington counties had the highest jobless rates, between 7.5 percent and 8 percent.

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