Maine’s unemployment rate dropped slightly last month, as the state’s labor market shows signs of stress amid a shortage of workers.
The 5.3% unemployment rate for April, which is not seasonally adjusted, is compared to 5.4% in the previous month and 9.8% one year ago, the agency said.
Maine added 1,200 jobs in April, excluding education, maintaining a positive trend since the beginning of the year, labor officials said.
The largest job gains were in the construction, retail trade, and professional and business services sectors.
Overall, the state has added 9,600 jobs in the first four months of the calendar year, the report noted, following months of stagnant labor conditions at the end of 2020.
Maine’s hospitality industry is also showing signs of economic recovery, with accommodation and food services jobs rising to 48,500 in April as the state’s economy reopens.
Like most states, Maine saw a crush on jobless claims in the past year as the government shut down businesses to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
The state has distributed about $2.19 billion in state and federal jobless benefits to nearly 370,000 jobless workers during the pandemic, according to the labor department.
At least 1,167 new claims for state unemployment benefits were filed for the week that ended May 15 – a drop of 132 from the previous week, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s weekly report. Meanwhile, continuing claims for state unemployment benefits decreased by 962 during the week that ended May 8, according to the federal agency.
Gov. Janet Mills has taken steps in recent weeks to lure workers back to their jobs amid a shortage of labor as the state eases COVID-19 restrictions and reopens its economy.
Those changes included bringing back a work search requirement for individuals collecting unemployment benefits. Beginning this week, individuals receiving jobless benefits will be required to actively look for work and accept positions for which they are “reasonably qualified,” the agency said.
The state is also asking employers to report workers who have refused to return to their jobs. Those that refuse could face a loss of unemployment benefits.
This article was originally posted on Maine’s unemployment rate 5.3% in April