State of Working Maine in 2013: Maine Workers “Remain in Crisis”

November 25, 2013

“Employment opportunities for Maine workers are still scarce more than four years since the end of recession”

Augusta, Maine (Monday, November 25, 2013) More than four years since the end of the Great Recession of 2007-2009, nearly 50,000 Maine workers are unemployed and more than 50,000 others can find only part-time jobs or have left the work force. These are among the findings of State of Working Maine in 2013, a new report by economist Joel Johnson released today by the Maine Center for Economic Policy (MECEP). 
 
“Workers in Maine and across the nation remain in crisis,” the MECEP report found. “The typical working Mainer has yet to find relief from a long-term economic malaise that began more than 30 years ago and the lingering effects of the Great Recession of 2007-2009.”
 
The report also found that the 6.7% official unemployment rate is substantially higher than the 4 to 5% pre-recession rate. Maine has only recovered 34% of the more than 29,000 payroll jobs lost as a result of the recession. Long-term unemployment has shown little improvement since the end of the recession. Over one-third of Maine’s 50,000 unemployed have been without a job for more than six months. 
 
“Even with a job, many Mainers find their wages insufficient to support them and their families,” Johnson adds. “Wages and incomes are not keeping pace with the growth in productivity or the growth of the overall economy.”
 
Among MECEP’s other findings:

• Worker productivity in Maine has increased by more than 50% over the past 30 years, but worker compensation has grown by less than 30%.
 
• Wage inequality in Maine is growing. Wage growth for the median Maine worker began to stagnate in the late 1980s. The median wage didn’t grow at all over the past decade and has grown by less than a dollar since 1990. Meanwhile, the highest wage earners have seen relatively steady income growth over the past thirty-plus years, and the top 10% of wage and salary earners experienced a 12.4% increase in real wages between 2002 and 2012.
 
• Income inequality in Maine is growing. Between the late 1970s and the mid-2000s, the average income (after federal taxes and programs such as food stamps) for the poorest fifth of Maine households grew just 27%, from $18,720 to $23,825. Middle-income households fared slightly better, with average household income for the middle fifth of Maine households growing 47% over the same period. Incomes for the top 20% of Maine households, meanwhile, grew 67% on average.
 
• Nationally, the share of economic output accruing to workers fell from 64% in 2000 to less than 58% in 2012. Workers across the country are getting less of the fruits of their labor. 
 
• Adjusted for inflation, the minimum wage in Maine is no higher than it was forty years ago and substantially lower than its peak in 1968.

The report also examines the demographics of Maine’s workforce, specifically the aging of the “baby boom” generation; the impact of the “new economy” of dwindling manufacturing jobs and a growing service sector; and the incontrovertible evidence of the benefits that advanced education and job training deliver to aspiring workers. 
 
To read an executive summary or the full report, click here