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Business and Economy

Maine's Economic Recovery Slowed To A Crawl Last Month, According To Jobs Figures

Virus Outbreak Maine
Robert F. Bukaty
A "help wanted" sign is taped to a sign outside a motel Wednesday, May 26, 2021, in Wells, Maine. America’s tourist destinations are facing a severe worker shortage just as they’re trying to rebound from a devastating year lost to the pandemic.

Maine's economic recovery, as measured by employment, has slowed to a crawl.

The State Labor Department reported on Wednesday that the state's unemployment rate fell to 4.7 percent in May, from 4.8 percent in April.

The number of non-farm jobs remained nearly the same, with some job losses in construction and manufacturing, and a nearly equal number of job gains in wholesale and retail trade, health care and social assistance.

Last month's jobless rate was a big improvement over May 2020. Then, the unemployment rate was 8.3 percent with many businesses still closed due to the pandemic.

But Maine's total number of jobs remains 29,400 short of the number that existed before the pandemic prompted a partial economic shutdown. The Labor Department figures show more private sector jobs have returned than public sector jobs.

One other closely watched number is the labor force participation rate, or how many people are actually trying to find work. It remains lower now than it was before the pandemic.

Officials say that means the current unemployment rate probably understates the true number of jobless individuals in Maine.

In a release, the Labor Department said if the labor force participation rate were as high now as it was before the pandemic, May's unemployment rate would be 8.5 percent.