Unemployment in Aroostook County doubled during first full month of COVID-19 crisis

4 years ago

HOULTON, Maine — The percentage of unemployed people in Aroostook County for the month of April doubled from the previous month, according to new information released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics on June 3.

This gave Aroostook County the third lowest unemployment rate of all counties in the state. Before COVID-19, it was second highest.

The bureau, which releases a weekly nationwide jobless report, does not release figures for county-specific data on monthly unemployment rates until two months later, meaning it had been previously unknown how hard the COVID-19 crisis affected The County.

“These estimates are based on surveys, which collect information on jobs and labor force status for the week or pay period that includes the 12th day of the month,” Mark McInerney, the director of The Center for Workforce Research and Information at the Maine Department of Labor, said. “Loss of employment that occurred later in April will be reflected in May estimates, which will be published June 19.”

For the month of March, when the country began to shut down businesses and implement social distancing measures to prevent the spread of the disease, the unemployment rate for Aroostook actually decreased from the previous month, from 6.1 to 5.3.

But because such stringent measures were not put in place until near the end of the month, as well as applicants not able to submit unemployment claims right away due to the system being overwhelmed, the unemployment rate could not be seen as a reflection of any economic impact.

But the recently-released numbers for April show a much more revealing picture, with the unemployment rate doubling from 5.3 to 10.6. The spike is somewhat lower compared to the whole of the United States, which went from having a 4.4 unemployment rate in March to 14.6 in April.

The unemployment rate of 10.6 also matches with the unemployment rate for the state of Maine in April, which is up from a 3.0 unemployment rate in fall.

Prior to the pandemic, Aroostook County had the second-highest unemployment rate in the state of Maine, with rates more than twice as high as that of Cumberland County, where the city of Portland is located.

But as of April, The County now has the third-lowest unemployment rate of Maine counties, and Cumberland County now has a higher unemployment rate than Aroostook.

“Increases generally were the largest in the most densely populated counties and smallest in the least densely populated counties, with some exceptions,” said McInerney. “This is driven in part by the location of industries throughout the state.”

The sectors hardest hit by the COVID outbreak included leisure/hospitality, social assistance/healthcare and manufacturing. The total number of nonfarm payroll jobs lost in the state of Maine totaled 98,400 jobs.