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Knox County unemployment rate hits record high

By Stephen Betts | May 22, 2020

Knox County recorded its highest level of unemployment on record during April as the fallout from the COVID-19 outbreak became clearer.

The Maine Department of Labor reported May 22 that Knox County's jobless rate was 12.2% during April.

This is nearly triple the March rate of 4.1%. In April 2019, the unemployment rate was 3.6% in Knox County.

According to the state, 16,970 people were employed in Knox County last month while 2,360 were unable to find work. That means about 1,500 people lost their jobs from March to April.

The Knox County rate is above the statewide unemployment rate of 10.6%. Lincoln County's rate in April was 11.2 percent and Waldo County 10.3%.

The highest rate in the state was Somerset County at 13.8% while the lowest level was found in Kennebec County which was 10.1%.

The 12.2% in Knox County last month exceeded the depth of the Great Recession of 2008-2009. The previous high was 10% in February 2009. During the 1992 recession, the Knox County rate peaked at 9.2% in February of that year. The rate was about 10% during a recession in 1982.

According to the Labor Department, statewide job losses between February and April impacted every major industry sector. The largest decrease was in the leisure and hospitality sector, where 42,600 jobs were lost, which was 61% of jobs in that sector, and 40% of jobs lost in all sectors.

The next largest job losses were in the healthcare and social assistance, retail trade and manufacturing sectors. These four sectors accounted for three-quarters of jobs lost in the state in the last two months.

The U.S. unemployment rate estimate for April was 14.7%.

"As sharp as the increase in unemployment is, it does not fully reflect the magnitude of job loss that has occurred, either in Maine or the U.S. This is because to be counted as unemployed a person must have engaged in work search activities in the previous four weeks and have been available to work. The pandemic disrupted the labor market in many ways, including preventing people who lost a job and wanted a new job from engaging in normal work search activities because of concerns for personal safety and because of stay at home orders issued in most states," according to a news release issued May 22 by the state.

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