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October 13, 2022

Despite recovery, there are still weaknesses in the economy

hand and timeclock Courtesy / Maine Center for Economic Policy A new report finds Maine’s economy is almost fully recovered from the pandemic, but challenges remain for workers.

A new report from the Maine Center for Economic Policy says indicators point to a near-full economic recovery two years after the start of the pandemic.

But the revival hides underlying weaknesses in the economy, some of which were present before the pandemic and others that emerged because of the pandemic’s disruption.

In “State of Working Maine 2022,” MECEP economic policy analyst James Myall said wages and working conditions have improved during the past two years. 

“As of August 2022, the number of people working in Maine was just 1% below pre-pandemic levels, while real gross domestic product was 4% higher as of the first quarter of 2022,” Myall said.

But, he said, “Economic gains are undermined by: the highest rates of inflation in 40 years; too many Mainers being unable to participate fully in the economy; and numerous jobs lacking basic protections for workers. Some sectors, especially the public sector and those reliant on state funding, lack the resources to raise wages to hire and retain workers.”

The pandemic revealed that many essential workers are underpaid and “poorly treated,” he wrote.

A result of the upheaval is that more Maine workers “recognize their own value — and want employers to recognize it, too. Workers are increasingly expecting jobs that offer predictable schedules and the ability to take time off to care for family members or their own health needs.”

Among his findings:

  • Many Mainers are excluded from work
  • Wage growth is undermined by rising inflation — though workers with lower incomes are still ahead in real terms
  • Mainers are switching jobs at unprecedented rates
  • Maine’s labor market is tightening to historic levels — resulting in more predictable schedules for workers
  • Prime-age Mainers are returning to the workforce, but below historic rates — and older Mainers are picking up the slack
  • Several sectors that are reliant on public funding are struggling to hire and retain staff
  • Maine’s new paid time off law has improved the quality of many jobs for workers with low wages

Myall’s recommendations include:

  • Guarantee Mainers the right to unionize without interference
  • Allow agricultural workers to bargain collectively
  • Encourage employers to make accommodations for long-COVID sufferers
  • Strengthen access to health care, including mental health services
  • Develop a comprehensive child care subsidy program
  • Continue to fund free college
  • Enforce anti-discrimination laws
  • Preserve and expand Maine’s minimum wage law
  • Ensure direct care support workers are paid adequately
  • Enact a paid family and medical leave program

Established in 1994, the Augusta-based Maine Center for Economic Policy is a nonpartisan policy research and economic analysis organization.

The center is hosting a webinar with Myall on Oct. 18, from 12-12:45 p.m., to discuss the report.

Click here to register for webinar.

To view the full report, click here:

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