In this Sept. 30, 2020, file photo, a passerby walks past a hiring sign while entering a Target store in Westwood, Mass. The U.S. unemployment rate dropped to 7.9% in September, but hiring is slowing and many Americans have given up looking for work, the government said Friday, Oct. 2, in the final jobs report before the voters decide whether to give President Donald Trump another term. Credit: Steven Senne / AP

Maine added only 4,700 nonfarm payroll jobs in September, leading to a slight decrease in the unemployment rate as the state and nation see a slow recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

The unemployment rate in Maine fell by 0.9 percent in September to 6.1 percent compared to 7 percent in August, the Maine Department of Labor said Tuesday. Some 53,900 jobs were recovered since a low in April, but the September total still was down by 50,600 from February before the coronavirus pandemic took hold here a month later.

Maine was among 30 states to see lower unemployment rates in September, with higher rates in 8 states and stable ones in 12 states and the District of Columbia, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics said Tuesday. The state is tied for the 16th-lowest unemployment rate in the nation as it manages the coronavirus relatively well. Maine has the second fewest per-capita cases among states, behind only Vermont, according to The New York Times.

But the minor improvement belies massive economic issues. All 50 states and the district had jobless rate increases from a year earlier. In Maine, the hard-hit leisure and hospitality market saw some improvement in jobs but the numbers of those employed were down 30 percent from February to September to 48,900 entering the cold-weather season.

The highest rates of job loss between February and September were in the leisure and hospitality, information and private education sectors. All employment sectors had net job losses between February and April and most have had net job gains between April and September. The number of jobs in construction, transportation, warehousing, utilities and the wholesale and trade sectors was close to pre-pandemic levels in September.

Labor force participation remained lower than normal, which the department said caused unemployment estimates to be lower than the actual impact of job losses on the labor market. Health concerns, childcare challenges and other factors prevented many jobless people from searching for work or being available to work, the labor department said.

Those people are not counted as unemployed. If they had been and the labor force participation was as high as it was in February, the unemployment rate would have been 9.2 percent in September.

National jobless figures, which were announced Oct. 2, showed the unemployment rate declined by half of a percentage point to 7.9 percent in September, and the number of unemployed persons fell by 10 million to 12.6 million, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

While both of those measures have declined for five consecutive months, they remain higher than before the pandemic in February by 4.4 percentage points and 6.8 million, respectively.

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Lori Valigra

Lori Valigra, senior reporter for economy and business, holds an M.S. in journalism from Boston University. She was a Knight journalism fellow at M.I.T. and has extensive international reporting experience...