Maine has doubled its previous record for longest-running period with the statewide unemployment rate under 4 percent.

Maine’s unemployment rate has been below 4 percent for 44 consecutive months, twice as long as the previous record of 22 months from September 1999 to July 2001, according to preliminary, seasonally adjusted unemployment estimates for August issued Friday.

The preliminary unemployment rate estimate of 2.9 percent for August was down from 3 percent for July and 3.5 percent in August 2018, according to the state Department of Labor. The number of unemployed job-seekers decreased by 4,000 in August from a year earlier to 20,100, it said.

The state’s persistent low unemployment rate has led to an enduring labor crunch, affecting businesses around the state. Several state and private programs are trying to address the workforce challenge, including the Department of Labor’s Apprenticeship Program, which has seen participation increase by 40 percent over the past two years, and pending applications would increase participation by an additional 50 percent.

Maine’s preliminary payroll survey estimate of 634,500 nonfarm payroll jobs for August was up 6,800 jobs from a year earlier, the Labor Department said. The private sector estimate of 534,500 jobs was up 6,800 over the year, with the largest job gains in the leisure and hospitality sector. The government estimate of 100,000 jobs was unchanged from August 2018, it said.

The U.S. preliminary unemployment rate of 3.7 percent for August was unchanged from July and down slightly from 3.8 percent a year earlier. The August estimate for New England was 3 percent. Rates for other states in the region were 2.5 percent in New Hampshire, 2.1 percent in Vermont, 2.9 percent in Massachusetts, 3.6 percent in Rhode Island, and 3.6 percent in Connecticut.

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