2007 was a year of conflicting – and sometimes troubling – trends in the Maine economy. On the upside, the Maine economy grew modestly, as did productivity and per capita personal income. On the downside, gains in median household income – a far better measure of how typical working families are faring – are likely to be erased by the sharp increases for basic consumer goods seen since the end of 2007, leaving families no better off. Job growth was virtually non-existent. While Maine’s overall economy performed better than the nation as a whole by some measures, the majority of Maine working families will see little or no improvement in their standard of living. And of course, the review of 2007 offered in this report does not tell us how Maine will have fared when the books finally are closed on 2008; Maine’s economic prospects remain clouded by growing uncertainties in the national and global economies.
Trends suggested by data in this report, however, can provide a glimpse at the road ahead. While there is little that Mainers can do to affect the national or global economies, decisions made here at the state level nevertheless will play an important role in determining Maine’s longer term economic trajectory. Certainly, Maine has the capacity for continued economic growth and with it, the opportunity to share the resulting benefits more widely. To achieve these outcomes, however, Maine will need to focus on stimulating the higher wage sectors of the state economy, strengthening workforce skills, addressing long-term demographic trends, and ensuring that wage gains are focused on middle and lower income workers.
By Kurt Wise and Sarah Richards