Maine’s job recovery stalled in September amid a spike in the number of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths in the state.

Nonfarm jobs fell by 3,000 over the month, according to early estimates from the Maine Department of Labor issued Friday. Maine’s unemployment rate in September was virtually unchanged from the previous month at 4.8 percent.

During the pandemic, labor market recovery has been shown to have an inverse relationship to the prevalence of coronavirus, said state labor economist Glenn Mills.

Maine added thousands of jobs in the spring and summer of 2020, before job recovery stalled during a surge of infections last fall and winter. The same pattern repeated during a spring wave, followed by the recent surge of infections fueled by the virus’ delta variant.

“When there is a surge, there is a flattening of jobs in Maine,” Mills said in an interview. “The effect is clear on the labor market now.”

The biggest shares of job losses last month were in education, manufacturing, professional and business services, health care and social assistance. Overall, Maine had 28,000 fewer jobs than immediately before the pandemic, the labor department reported.

September’s job losses occurred at the same time tens of thousands of Mainers lost access to federal unemployment benefits, including an extra $300 a week. Some conservative politicians blamed those benefits for holding people back from taking thousands of open jobs, even though researchers consistently found unemployment pay did not seriously prevent people from looking for work.

This story will be updated. 

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