THE state jobs data was released yesterday and revealed that, again, the Maine economy and labor market continue to slowly improve. The unemployment rate dipped to 5.5%, the lowest since August of 2008, while the labor force participation rate (65.2%) and employment-population ratio (61.6%) held relatively steady.
Job growth was fairly wide spread, with only one observed industry experiencing a decline in employment. Here is the year-over job growth in the state by industry (change from the start of the recession in 12/2007):
Construction: 300 (-4,600)
Manufacturing: 400 (-8,900)
Trade, Transportation, and Utilities: 1,400 (-6,600)
Financial Activities: 400 (-500)
Professional and Business Services: 1,900 (6,800)
Education and Health Services:1,500 (6,700)
Leisure and Hospitality: 2,500 (5,400)
Government: -800 (-5,000)
Information: -300 (-3,800)
Mining and Logging: 300 (100)
Maine’s metro areas experienced increases in nonfarm payrolls, with the Portland-South Portland-Biddeford area up 500 jobs from last month, and 3,000 from a year ago, Lewiston-Auburn up 200 from May and 700 from a year ago, and Bangor up 200 and 900 respectively. The month-to-month number should be read into too deeply as they are both volatile and subject to subsequent revisions. The longer trends show employment improving in all three metro areas. However, only the Portland-South Portland-Biddeford area of the three that has recovered all jobs lost during the recession.
While the labor market continues its slow, steady improvement, the overall health of the labor market during the recovery has been weak. Through 2012, involuntary part-time workers remain above pre-recession levels, while through 2013 the employment rate for prime age workers (25 – 54 years of age) remains below pre-recession levels. Moreover, Maine faces a jobs deficit of 9,300 since the start of the recession.
Of course, the 9,300 figure does not take into account population and labor force growth in the state. For since, although employment in Maine is above pre-recession levels, there is still an employment gap when one factors in growth in the laborforce. If the current employment/population rate were at the same level as it was at the onset of the recession (63% on 12/07), employment would be up by just over 15,000.