Maine’s Jobs Report: A Bad Case of Déjà vu

Today the Bureau of Labor Statistics released its monthly jobs report and, like in his State of the State address, Governor LePage continues to tout a jobs record that is severely lacking.

In a release from the governor’s office, the subtitle reads, “15,000 private sector jobs created since 2011.” Once again, the governor would do well to keep these claims in perspective. Based on data the governor cites, Maine ranks 45th in private sector job growth among the 50 states and the District of Columbia and 48th in total job growth from January 2011 to January 2014. While it is true that this is a slight improvement from our previous 50th place ranking, the reality is that Maine has consistently hovered near the bottom of the pack when it comes to job growth.

The governor also continues to tout Maine’s continuing decline in unemployment and a rising employment-to-population ratio. On the surface these are good things, but they mask some pretty troubling trends. First, job growth in Portland, Bangor, and Lewiston-Auburn metropolitan areas is fueling the decline in unemployment. The governor’s own policies have left rural Maine in a lurch from cuts to revenue sharing and education that have resulted in job loss and increased property taxes to his continued resistance to issuing bonds to spur economic growth. Second, a disproportionate share of Mainers age 55 and over staying in the workforce is driving Maine’s rising employment-to-population ratio. Employment rates for residents between the ages of 25-54 – those most likely to be working and raising families – have not yet begun to recover from the recession. Finally, a more comprehensive measure of unemployment shows that the lack of good jobs is a problem for workers. Maine has the 6th highest percentage of part-time workers who want more work but can’t find it.

While the Governor may choose to ignore the facts of Maine’s poor jobs recovery when he touts his record, they are inescapable. Maine remains stuck in the back of the pack when it comes to jobs.