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Updated: November 27, 2023

Think tank warns that Maine's 'plateauing workforce' will hamper economic growth

Maine’s “plateauing workforce” is the state's biggest economic challenge, according to a new report by the Maine Center for Economic Policy.

The report, entitled “State of Working Maine 2023: Boosting Maine’s Workforce,” notes that more than 6% of jobs in Maine are unfilled, nearly double the percentage two decades ago.

Photo / Courtesy Maine Center for Economic Policy
James Myall

“Without increasing the size of the workforce, it is very difficult to maintain a healthy economy, as there are not enough workers to fill new jobs as they are created,” author James Myall, the center’s economic policy analyst, notes in the 20-page report.

“At the legislative level, this means smaller growth — or even declines — in state tax revenues, and rising costs for services like health care for older Mainers as this group becomes a larger share of the population,” he warns.

The Maine Center for Economic Policy, based in Augusta, bills itself as a nonpartisan research and policy organization dedicated to improving the economic well-being of Mainers with low and moderate income.

Policy recommendations 

To avoid an eventual decline in Maine’s labor force and the accompanying negative effects, the report recommends boosting the proportion of working-age Mainers who are employed as well as attracting workers from other states and countries.

To support Maine’s existing population, the author calls for providing greater opportunity for higher education and safety-net programs as well as addressing discrimination in the labor market faced by groups including women, people of color and older adults.

The report notes that many policies such as Paid Family and Medical Leave for current working Mainers would also make Maine a more attractive place for people to move to.

The lack of affordable housing is cited as a major impediment. 

Myall warns that Maine will not be able to successfully expand its workforce without substantially increasing the supply of housing, which he cites as one of the largest barriers to economic security for Mainers.

More information

Find the full report here.

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Gail Babick
November 29, 2023

I am surprised that a discussion about enlarging our workforce does not include a substantive plan for affordable childcare. If that were available (as in many other developed countries) that would allow a significant number of parents of preschool kids to go back into the workforce. Perhaps Gov. Mills might consider investing our current budget surplus into financing something that would have long-term benefits instead of sending out individual checks that are spent quickly and with little impact.

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