The unemployment rate for Maine was 7.4 percent in October, down from 7.6 percent in September, but up slightly from the 7.3 percent rate in the year-ago period.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that 52,700 Mainers were unemployed last month, up 1,500 from the year-ago period. Maine’s unemployment rate has inched up since January, when the statewide unemployment rate stood at 7.0 percent.

“We’re caught in the same pattern as the nation — there’s a holding pattern and it’s been that way for a few years,” said Glenn Mills, director of economic research at the Maine Department of Labor’s Center for Workforce Research & Information. “On the plus side, no sectors are hemorrhaging jobs anymore.”

Sectors such as education, health care, professional services and leisure and hospitality have seen recent gains in jobs, while retail and construction have stabilized after massive losses in 2008 and 2009, Mills said. State and local government jobs, however, have been on the decline.

Maine fared better than the U.S. as a whole. The U.S. unemployment rate was 7.9 percent, little changed from 7.8 percent in September but down from 8.9 percent a year ago.

October marked the 61st consecutive month that Maine had a higher employment-to-population ratio than the nation.

The October unemployment rate for New England was 7.4 percent. Rates ranged from 5.5 percent in Vermont to 10.4 percent in Rhode Island. The rate was 5.7 percent in New Hampshire, 6.6 percent in Massachusetts and 9 percent in Connecticut.

The non-seasonally adjusted statewide unemployment rate was 6.7 percent in October, unchanged from a year ago. Rates ranged from 5.5 percent in Cumberland County to 9.6 percent in Washington County. Rates tended to be lower than the statewide average in southern and coastal counties and higher than average in the northern counties.

The unemployment rates in Maine’s metro areas fell below the statewide average. In Portland-South Portland-Biddeford, it was 5.5 percent. In Bangor, it was 6.6 percent, and in Lewiston-Auburn, 6.8 percent.

“The latest employment statistics demonstrate that Maine’s jobs crisis persists nearly four years after the end of the Great Recession,” said Garrett Martin, executive director of the Maine Center for Economic Policy.

“Maine continues to rank near the bottom of states in terms of job growth over the last year,” Martin said. “While these numbers are preliminary, Maine’s job count at 595,300 nonfarm jobs means we’ve had virtually zero job growth in 3½ years. We have over 50,000 unemployed Mainers and thousands more who have left the labor force altogether or can’t find more than part-time work with no benefits.”

The state may see some gains in construction jobs in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, economists said. However, the threat of the so-called fiscal cliff, which would lead to automatic tax increases and spending cuts if unresolved, could have a major impact on jobs at the end of the year and into 2013.

“If they don’t come to some kind of resolution, the fiscal cliff would have a major impact on jobs and the amount of money taken out of people’s paychecks,” Mills said. “The psychological aspect alone could cause some people to retrench.”

Staff Writer Jessica Hall can be contacted at 791-6316 or at: jhall@mainetoday.com


 

Chart by Maine Center for Workforce Research and Information