Older Mainers are Driving Maine’s Employment Recovery

 Maine’s older adults are driving Maine’s employment recovery from the recession. Not only do 55-and-older Mainers represent a disproportionately large share of Maine’s total population, they have increased their attachment to the labor force and employment faster than their peers in every other state over the past four years. As a result, they are responsible for most of the growth in Maine’s rate of employment over the past four years.

Maine’s employment rate is growing faster than the nation.

The employment/population ratio, or E-POP, is the percentage of the adult population who are employed. Unlike the official unemployment rate, which ignores unemployed workers who have stopped looking for a job, the E-POP allows for a fairly straight-forward comparison of the labor market recovery in different states without worrying about differences in the jobs search behavior of unemployed workers.

According to the E-POP, Maine’s recovery is clearly outpacing the nation.


From the end of the recession in June, 2009, through December, 2013, Maine had the third largest increase in the employment-to-population ratio among states.


But the increase in Maine’s E-POP is due mostly to increasing employment among older Mainers.

The E-POP for the 55-and-older population has increased more in Maine than any other state in the nation since 2009. Since this age group makes up 39% of Maine’s population—Maine has the second biggest cohort of 55-and-older adults in the nation—changes in the E-POP for this age group have an especially big impact on Maine’s overall employment picture. From 2009 to 2013, Maine’s 55-and-older population is responsible for most of the increase in Maine’s E-POP.


 The E-POP for prime-working-age adults has not recovered from the recession.

On the other hand, the E-POP for prime-working-age adults (25-54 years old) has not recovered in Maine or in the US as a whole. Since Maine has the smallest cohort of prime-working-age adults in the nation—46.6% vs. the US average of 50.6%—the lack of employment growth for this age cohort isn’t dragging Maine’s total E-POP down as much as it is in the US as a whole.


More of Maine’s young adults are finding employment too, but there aren’t very many of them.

Maine also led the nation from 2009-2013 in E-POP growth for younger adults age 16-24. But since this age group only makes up 13.9 percent of the state’s population—the fifth smallest cohort of young adults in the nation—it doesn’t have as big an effect on the overall rate of employment, especially in comparison to the US as a whole.


The bottom line here is that Maine’s labor market recovery varies widely across age groups. Maine’s prime-working-age adults are still having trouble finding employment. This age group made up 47% of Maine’s adult population in 2013 and is recovering from the recession no faster than their counterparts in the rest of the country. Maine’s 55-and-older population, in contrast, which made up 39% of Maine’s adult population in 2013, has seen the largest increase in labor force participation and employment in the nation since the end of the recession.