Maine’s unemployment rate held steady at 6.8 percent in June after falling in May to the lowest rate since November 2008, according to a Department of Labor report issued Thursday.

The preliminary, estimated jobless rate was below 7 percent for the third month in a row, after more than four years in which it was at or above 7 percent. In April, Maine’s estimated unemployment rate was 6.9 percent.

The U.S. Department of Labor Statistics estimated that 48,500 job seekers in Maine were unemployed in June, a decrease of 3,300 from June 2012, when the state’s jobless rate was 7.3 percent.

June’s estimate of 601,000 nonfarm payroll jobs was up 1,300 from the revised May estimate. 

The job growth has occurred primarily in the hospitality, professional services, health care and education sectors. Other sectors generally have stabilized since the nation’s economic downturn.

Among metro areas, the unemployment rate was below the statewide average in Portland, South Portland and Biddeford (5.7 percent) and close to the statewide average in Bangor and Lewiston-Auburn (6.9 percent).

The U.S. jobless rate was estimated at 7.6 percent in June, unchanged from May and down from 8.2 percent a year earlier. 

The New England unemployment rate was 7.1 percent; estimates for other states were 5.2 percent in New Hampshire, 4.4 percent in Vermont, 7 percent in Massachusetts, 8.9 percent in Rhode Island and 8.1 percent in Connecticut.

Gov. Paul LePage said in a written statement that his policies of limiting government and lowering taxes have contributed to the job growth.

“About 8,000 more people are working in the private sector now than when I took office,” LePage said. “Our focus on helping to create jobs and improving the economy is putting more Mainers back to work and that is good news for everyone.”

Glenn Mills, chief economist for the Maine Department of Labor, warned that the figures for Maine could be adjusted upward next March, when the Labor Department will release updated, more reliable data for 2013.

“Preliminary unemployment rate estimates tend to move in a direction for several months and then the opposite direction for several months,” Mills said. “This pattern often reflects an estimating methodology rather than improvement or deterioration in conditions.”

In recent months, Maine’s jobless rate has fallen more slowly than that of the nation, but Mills said the reason is actually positive for Maine.

Nationally, a higher percentage of job-seekers have given up looking, so they are no longer counted as part of the work force, he said.

J. Craig Anderson can be contacted at 791-6390 or at:

canderson@pressherald.com