Brief: Providing workers the support they need to enter and stay in the labor force

At a glance

  • Maine has more jobs now than before the pandemic
  • Labor force participation has mostly rebounded to pre-pandemic levels but is not adequate to keep pace with job growth and shifts in the labor force
  • Tens of thousands of workers remain out of the labor force for reasons that public policies can address — particularly those focused on strengthening Maine’s care economy and the capacity of families to afford care and meet basic needs
  • Now is the time to make investments that address structural challenges for Maine’s workers and employers, and foster greater long-term economic vitality

Strong recovery can be made even stronger

Critical investments at the state and federal level helped Maine recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, and our state currently has the lowest unemployment rate on record. A tight labor market helped many working people, especially those in lower-wage jobs like retail and hospitality, demand higher wages to keep up with the rising cost of living. The historic job recovery is a testament to what our state can accomplish when leaders prioritize the needs of workers and families.

However, this historically tight labor market also means:

  • Some employees must work unsustainable levels of overtime
  • People who need care and other supports are not always able to get them
  • Employers needing to hire workers to meet demand have difficulty finding them

Given Maine’s demographic and labor force participation profile, Maine Center for Economic Policy asserts there are policy solutions currently being deliberated — including paid family medical leave, child care wage supplements and subsidies, modernizing the child tax credit, and extending benefits to direct care workers — that, taken together, could make significant contributions to supporting people who are out of the labor force return to work. These policies may also make Maine a more attractive place for workers from outside the state to relocate.

Maine faces worker shortages in many sectors and caring for a family member — a newborn or young child, an older or disabled family member, or a sick parent — is one of the primary reasons people who wish to work are out of the labor force. Policies that help workers support their families will positively impact our state’s economic vitality in the near and long term. This brief details how these policies benefit workers and businesses.

Click here to read the full brief.