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Business and Economy

Maine's Unemployment Rate Drops A Bit In May, But Remains High

Robert F. Bukaty
Associated Press
In this June 16, 2020, file photo, The Standard Baking Company serves customers at their door front in Portland, Maine.

After soaring in April to 10.4%, Maine’s unemployment rate retreated last month to 9.3%. The Maine Department of Labor reported Friday that private sector employers added 18,400 jobs, as pandemic restrictions on business began to ease, allowing some business activity to resume.However, the department said 4,100 public sector employees lost jobs in May, most of them state employees, as government revenue fell due to the economic slowdown.

The May increase in employment was the largest monthly gain on record.  Still, the number of Mainers who reported being out of work made for an unemployment rate more than triple what it was in March, before the pandemic-induced economic shutdown began.

Among the sectors that hired more workers last month were leisure and hospitality, manufacturing, retail trade, and health care and social assistance.

The pandemic-caused economic slowdown has shifted the geographic centers of unemployment in Maine.  Last year in May, Aroostook and Washington counties had the highest jobless rates.  This May, the distinction went to Oxford, Franklin, Somerset and Cumberland counties, all of which still had jobless rates of over 10%.

Maine’s overall 9.3% unemployment rate for May was lower than the New England average of 12.3% and the national average of 13.3%.