Although remaining well-above pre-recession levels, Maine’s “U6” rate of unemployment is showing signs of improvement along with the nation as a whole, according to data released last week by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. On average over the past year, Maine’s U6 rate of unemployment was 12.4%, virtually no different than the 12.5% rate in the nation as a whole. The pre-recession rates were between 8 and 9 percent in both Maine and the US, so there is still plenty of slack in the labor market and job opportunities are still clearly less abundant than they were before the recession.
The U6 is the most comprehensive measure of unemployment available. While the official unemployment rate only counts workers who are unemployed and actively searching for work, the U6 counts those unemployed workers plus unemployed workers who have recently stopped searching for work and part-time workers who want more work but can’t find it. Monthly estimates of the U6 are not available at the state level. The BLS only provides rolling four-quarter average estimates. The most recent estimates are for the four-quarter period ending in September, 2014.
According to the data, Maine has 41,400 unemployed workers actively searching for work, 37,200 “involuntary” or “underemployed” part-time workers, and 9,300 “marginally-attached” workers (unemployed workers who recently stopped looking for work). So Maine has a total of 87,900 workers who aren’t finding the work they need in a labor market that’s still weak more than five years since the official end of the Great Recession.
In both Maine and the US, the labor market recovery from the recession as measured by the U6, is only about half-way complete. Maine’s U6 recovery ranks in the bottom half of states.