- Associated Press - Friday, April 21, 2017

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) - Maine’s workforce has reached its lowest unemployment rate on record, state labor officials said Friday.

The preliminary seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for March was 3 percent, the state Department of Labor said. The department said that is the lowest rate on record since the current estimation methodology was implemented in 1976.

“This shows that our efforts to lower taxes, reform welfare and bring fiscal responsibility to government are working,” Gov. Paul LePage said.

The state’s unemployment rate fell from 3.2 percent in February and 3.7 percent a year ago. Other metrics also showed falling unemployment in the Pine Tree State. The number of unemployed people was down by 4,500 over the year to 21,000.

The Labor Department said the unemployment rate was below 4 percent in 14 of the last 17 months. That has only happened in two other periods in the last 41 years.

The number of nonfarm payroll jobs was estimated at 623,000 in March, an all-time high. The number of private sector jobs also reached a new high at 523,200, with the largest gains in trade, transportation and utilities. The government’s portion of nonfarm jobs was 16 percent, which was the lowest share on record.

“Preliminary estimates indicate there was a record number of nonfarm and private sector payroll jobs in Maine, which drove the unemployment rate to a new low,” the department said in a statement.

Maine’s unemployment rate was 3.6 percent in March when not seasonally adjusted, the Labor Department said. Unemployment rates were lower than the statewide average in the state’s three principal metro areas of Portland, Lewiston and Bangor, the department said.

Maine’s unemployment rate has fallen close to the lowest in New England. New Hampshire’s was 2.8 percent, and Vermont’s was 3 percent. Connecticut had the highest unemployment in New England at 4.8 percent. Massachusetts was at 3.6 percent and Rhode Island was 4.3 percent.

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