Maine’s Jobs Recovery from the Great Recession Continues to Lag behind Other States

Recovery weakest in rural areas and among workers 25 to 54, those most likely to be raising families, saving for the future.

Augusta, Maine (Tuesday, April 1, 2014) The Maine Center for Economic Policy (MECEP) today released a new report, Maine’s Labor Market Recovery: Far from Complete, that finds nearly five years after the end of The Great Recession, Maine’s recovery continues to lag behind other states.

“Since January 2011, Maine ranks consistently near the bottom in total job growth and job growth in both the private and public sectors,” said Garrett Martin, MECEP executive director and one of the report’s authors. “Maine ranks 49th in total job growth and 42nd in private-sector job growth among the 50 states and District of Columbia since January 2011. Maine has also lost 4,600 state and local government jobs since the beginning of the recession in December 2007.”

The MECEP report, co-authored by economist Joel Johnson, involved in-depth research and analysis of U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics data for Maine from January 2011 through March 2014.

“Maine’s declining unemployment is a positive sign but masks growing disparities,” Johnson said. “So far, Maine’s recovery has occurred almost entirely in the Portland, Bangor, and Lewiston metropolitan areas which account for less than half the population of Maine but 83 percent of the job growth since the end of the recession. Among states where unemployment is higher in rural areas than in urban areas, Maine’s disparity is one of the largest in the nation.”

The MECEP report emphasizes that monthly employment data present only a partial picture of the challenges facing Mainers in the job market. Nearly 100,000 Mainers want more work but cannot find it or have stopped looking for work because nothing was available. In 2013, Maine had the 6th highest percentage of workers who wanted more work but couldn’t find it. Approximately 30 percent of Maine’s unemployed workers have been looking for work for more than 6 months compared to 14.2 percent of workers before the recession began.

“Since the recession ended, Maine compares favorably with other states in the proportion of workers participating in the workforce,” Martin said. “But older workers, those age 55 and above, are driving these overall improvements in employment. In contrast to older Mainers, unemployment rates for Mainers age 25 to 54 are 6.5 percent compared to 6.3 percent nationally and the percentage who have jobs has not increased at all since the end of the recession. These are the men and women most likely to participate in the labor force and most likely to need a job to support a family.”

“I used to have a good manufacturing job,” said Paul Nickerson from Gray, a 35-year-old father of two with another on the way. “In 2008, when the economy crashed, the company I worked for went out of business. I’m looking for a job again and there’s nothing available where we live, certainly not paying enough to support my family, much less save for the future, so we’ll probably have to move to the city to find work.”

“I’m a veteran and a college graduate, and I’ve applied for hundreds of jobs since I lost my job with Head Start in 2008,” said Brenda Akers, 53, from Lewiston. “I’ve struggled to find decent full-time work. It’s hard to make ends meet for me and my 14-year-old son Harrys (pronounced Harris).”

Maine’s Labor Market Recovery: Far from Complete is available on MECEP’s website. To obtain a copy, click here.