December’s unemployment rate of 2.9 percent caps four years of historically low Maine jobless rates.

When the Maine Department of Labor announced the preliminary unemployment rate for December on Friday, it marked the 48th consecutive month of rates below 4 percent – the longest, low -unemployment streak since the state began keeping records.

Extended low unemployment has exacerbated the state’s labor squeeze as more people retire from Maine’s workforce than enter it, and more people die than are being born in the state. The private sector estimate of 535,100 jobs is up 7,400 over the year, with the largest gains in the construction, leisure and hospitality and retail trade sectors, according to a news release from the Maine Department of Labor.

Last month’s 2.9 percent rate is barely changed from November’s rate of 2.8 percent, and down from 3.5 percent one year ago.

Maine’s unemployment rate continues to rank below the U.S. average. The national preliminary unemployment rate of 3.5 percent for December is unchanged from November, and down from 3.9 percent one year ago.

In New England, the rate is little changed at 3.0 percent. Unemployment rates in the region are 2.6 percent in New Hampshire, 2.3 percent in Vermont, 2.8 percent in Massachusetts, 3.5 percent in Rhode Island, and 3.7 percent in Connecticut.

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