Maine’s unemployment rate shrinks again to lowest in 17 years

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Maine’s unemployment rate has hit its lowest point since Christmas of 2000.

The February rate was down to 3.2 percent, according to the Maine Department of Labor. There are only seven states with a better employment rate than Maine, including both Vermont and New Hampshire.

If the labor market continues to provide jobs for the rest of the year, the state could hit unemployment levels lower than they have been in six decades.

The preliminary seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was down from 3.5 percent in January, down 2,000 people from January to 22,400 in all.

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Economists generally consider 4 percent unemployment a natural benchmark because there are always people who are between jobs, not necessarily unable to find them.

The figures were reached in conjunction with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which set the national unemployment rate at 4.8 percent in January. In February, it fell slightly to 4.7 percent.

The unemployment rate in Androscoggin County is 3.5 percent, down from 4.3 percent a year ago.

In general, the best employment rates are in southern Maine, the worst in the northern part of the state. Washington County has the highest rate in Maine at 7 percent. Cumberland County, at 2.7 percent, has the lowest rate.

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