Maine’s unemployment rate increased in October, rising for the third month in a row even though the number of nonfarm jobs in the state hit an all-time high.

The Maine Department of Labor reported that the statewide unemployment rate was 3.6% in October, up slightly from 3.3% in September. The figure had dipped to a pandemic low of 2.8% in July but has ticked up every month since.

At the same time, the number of nonfarm jobs in Maine grew by 3,000 last month to a record 641,900. Industries with the largest gains were in retail, health care and social assistance, and leisure and hospitality. Since June, the state has gained more than 9,000 jobs.

Mark McInerney, director of the department’s Center for Workforce Research and Information, said those figures speak to a tight labor market in which employers are trying to increase their staffing levels.

“It’s an environment in which employers have to compete to attract and retain talented employees,” he said.

This year’s most recent three-month average unemployment rate – a better indicator of workforce conditions – was 3.3% between August and October, about 0.3% higher than the previous three months, the department said.


The U.S. labor force participation rate is usually around 62% but dropped at the onset of the pandemic in March 2020. Maine’s labor force participation rate in October was 58.3%, down 0.7 percentage points since June.

The state bases its monthly estimates for unemployment rate, number of jobs and labor force participation on separate surveys of employers and households. Those figures are preliminary and inexact, and the department makes annual revisions based on more complete information.

“Rising unemployment in an environment of strong job gains occasionally occurs from increased labor force participation as the positive hiring environment prompts some people to enter the labor force,” Glenn Mills, also from the Center for Workforce Research and Information, said in a statement.

“It appears that labor force participation has been understated for recent months and will be revised higher, and that unemployment was understated in the summer and will be revised higher for those months.”

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