In Governor LePage’s recent State of the State address he touted his economic performance stating “Almost 13,000 new private-sector jobs have been created since we took office.”
Taken in isolation, this sounds pretty good. But compared with how other states have fared, Maine’s job creation performance leaves a lot to be desired. In fact, based on MECEP’s analysis of the most recent jobs data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Maine ranks 50th among states in private-sector job growth since 2011. Maine also ranks 50th in total job growth for the same period.
To be fair, Maine’s ranking will change with each month’s data release, but the pattern is well-established. We consistently rank at or near the bottom in terms of both private-sector job growth and total job growth.
We’ve been reluctant at MECEP to make a big deal of these numbers because of ongoing concerns about the underlying data. Until the Department of Labor revises the data appropriately (which happens on a yearly basis), citing the preliminary figures can be problematic as the Pew Center on the States discovered last year. That said, Governor LePage’s claims make the most recent figures fair game.
No matter how hard he tries to cherry-pick, the facts are inescapable. Maine’s economy remains stuck in neutral on Governor LePage’s watch. We’ve recovered less than 40% of the jobs lost since the beginning of the recession, while other states like Vermont have already returned to pre-recession employment levels. The comparison to Vermont is a telling one since demographic headwinds to growth are a convenient excuse for Maine’s anemic job creation record in recent years. But, even after adjusting for population change, Maine’s private sector job growth ranks 37th and total job growth ranks 41st. Vermont, which has seen the same rate of growth as Maine in its working age population since 2011 and has the 4th highest percentage of population age 55 and older (Maine is 2nd), ranks 10th in private sector job growth and 4th in total job growth.
Clearly the Governor has an interest in presenting his economic record in the best possible light. But relying on the jobs data to do so exposes him to the harsh reality that when it comes to growing jobs for Maine people, Governor LePage has Maine in the back of the pack.