In this Aug. 9, 2021, file photo, a hiring sign hangs in a window of Wendy's on Western Avenue in Augusta. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

Maine lost 1,200 jobs last month as a jobs recovery from earlier in the summer lost steam amid a growing surge of coronavirus cases. Still, the state’s unemployment rate remained at 4.9 percent.

The decline in employment last month came primarily from the government sector, where payrolls — mostly at the local government level — shrank by 1,100 jobs, according to the Maine Department of Labor. The private sector shed 100 jobs.

The August jobs numbers followed a July in which Maine employers added 2,300 jobs and a June when they added 3,000.

The state has seen a “stairstep pattern” of job growth this year, with larger gains followed by months with relatively small employment changes, wrote Glenn Mills, chief economist at the Maine Department of Labor’s Center for Workforce Research and Information.

“These periods of flatness have paralleled increasing coronavirus case counts and periods of job gains have paralleled decreasing case counts,” Mills said. “This has also been the pattern nationally.”

Nationwide, employers added 235,000 jobs in August, making it one of the slowest months for job growth in the past year. The national unemployment rate dropped by 0.2 percentage points to 5.2 percent.

Maine last month still had 22,800 fewer jobs than it had in February 2020, the month before the COVID-19 pandemic forced much of the economy to shut down.

Employment is still lower than before the pandemic in the leisure and hospitality industry, which has struggled to fill openings throughout the busy summer tourist season, as well as in the public education, health care and social assistance sectors, state data show.

Jobs in professional and business services and wholesale trade have risen past their pre-pandemic levels.

While Maine is still below pre-pandemic employment levels, it leads the six New England states in the share of jobs it has regained since the early months of the pandemic, according to the Connecticut Business and Industry Association.

Jobs data for September will come out following the end of federal enhanced unemployment benefits earlier this month, and as local governments grapple with how to spend large amounts of federal aid from the American Rescue Plan that Congress passed in March.