The tidal wave of joblessness crashing over Maine has hit restaurant workers, women and millennials hardest, according to new data from the Maine Department of Labor.

Demographic information released by the state includes gender, age, race and occupation for more than 74,000 Mainers who filed continuing unemployment claims during one week in mid-April.

 

It is the first detailed look at which groups have lost the most jobs since many businesses in Maine and across the country ground to a halt as the coronavirus pandemic hit the state two months ago.

“Women and younger workers are receiving unemployment benefits at higher levels than other groups,” said Mario Moretto, a spokesman for the progressive Maine Center for Economic Policy. “This tracks with what you might expect, given what we know about the demographics in industries that have been hard-hit by the pandemic and the economic slowdown.”

The new statistics provide a snapshot of workers who filed weekly claims for continuing unemployment benefits in the week ending April 19. The labor department has said almost 127,000 Maine workers – 18 percent of the state’s workforce – have filed initial claims for jobless benefits since March 15.

Some unemployed Mainers say they have had difficulty filing initial or continuing claims and have faced difficulties accessing the state’s online unemployment system portal.

A better picture of Maine’s unemployment situation will emerge Friday, when the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics releases state-level unemployment figures for April, the first month in which the jobless rate is expected to be affected heavily by the coronavirus pandemic and associated government-imposed shutdowns.

“It will be interesting to see, for example, whether the skew of toward younger people in continued unemployment claims is the result of higher job losses among young workers, or is a function of the technological barriers to filing a successful claim – barriers that may be harder to overcome for older workers,” Moretto said.

More than 41,000 Maine women continued to file jobless claims in the third week of April, 55 percent of all those who filed continuing claims that week, according to the labor department. That mirrors national trends – the U.S. unemployment rate for women was more than 15 percent in April, compared with 13 percent for men, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The racial breakdown of unemployed Mainers generally reflected the state’s demographics. More than 90 percent of the claimants identified as white, while 2 percent identified as black or African American, 1 percent Asian and 1 percent American Indian or Alaskan Native.

Nearly 95 percent of Maine’s population is white, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Less than 2 percent of the state’s population is black or African American, about 1 percent are Asian and 1 percent are American Indian or Alaskan Native.

Young adults and people nearing their peak earning years have been thrown out of work in vast numbers.

Almost half of the unemployed workers counted in Maine were between the ages of 25 and 44, according to the state. More than a quarter – 27 percent – were age 25 to 34, within the millennial generation. Some of those workers are enduring the second historic economic downturn in their young lives, having entered the job market during the Great Recession a decade ago.

Job losses across all occupations have been stunning, but food service workers bore the brunt. More than 15,300 workers in food preparation and serving occupations – cooks, dishwashers, servers, and bartenders – filed continuing claims during the third week in April, about 21 percent of all such claims.

Maine’s restaurants and bars closed or restricted service to takeout and delivery two months ago by order of Gov. Janet Mills. Eateries in 12 counties where community spread of coronavirus is not apparent were allowed to open Monday with restrictions. Restaurants across the state are allowed to open their dining rooms June 1, but some owners say they will stay closed until they believe it is safe.

Office and administrative support, management, and sales and production workers also were laid off in high numbers, according to the new data. More than 6,000 people in both sales and production industries filed continuing claims during the week studied. Almost 8,600 office and administrative workers and nearly 5,400 managers did so. Those four occupational groups accounted for 35 percent of the claims filed.

Maine has not provided geographic information about where workers live or where job losses have been highest. Some of that information will be released later this month, a labor department spokeswoman said.

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