Economist: May decline in Maine's workforce likely a seasonal blip

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Jun. 17—An apparent stumble in Maine's labor market recovery last month is likely the result of a temporary changeover in seasonal employment, according to a state labor economist.

Maine lost 2,900 nonfarm payroll jobs last month while the statewide unemployment rate ticked lower to 3.2 percent — the lowest rate in more than two years. The sudden drop follows months of positive job growth.

Most of the losses were in the leisure and hospitality sectors, said economist Glenn Mills, from the Center for Workforce Research and Information at the state Department of Labor.

Despite economic jitters prompted by record inflation, interest rate hikes and stock market losses, a one-month job loss in Maine is not a likely signal of looming recession, Mills said.

"I hope no one takes it as an indication of a turn in the economy," he said. "If it is, we need more data, we need more time to know that."

The losses also aligned with other northern states that have highly seasonal workforces. It is likely that layoffs related to winding down skiing, snowmobiling and other winter recreation businesses gave the appearance of an outsize jobs decline, Mills said.

"Those transition months can be a little tricky; a large share of that supposed job loss was in hospitality," he said.

The phenomenon was evident in state jobs reports released at the same time on Friday for New Hampshire, Vermont, Minnesota, Wyoming, Idaho, Washington and Alaska, Mills added.

"Those are among the most seasonal states in the country" in terms of their labor markets, he said.

Maine's payroll workforce gained an average of 2,100 jobs a month in the past three months through May compared with the previous three-month period.

Even with the May losses, leisure and hospitality have seen the largest gains among all sectors during the past three months, followed by health care and social services, and the professional and business sectors.