The Center for Workforce Research and Information of the Maine Department of Labor (DoL) issued its Employment Outlook to 2026 report projecting job and demographic trends that should concern all those hoping for a growing Maine economy.
The report projects a net gain of only 94 jobs between 2016 and 2026, with shrinkage in office administrative and support positions, retail, and production jobs offset by gains in healthcare related professions. Unsurprisingly, the over-65 year old population is projected to grow substantially, while the number of 16 to 65 working age people is expected to shrink.
This portends a stagnant economy, unless the state takes affirmative measures to attract new businesses and encourage in-state expansion of existing ones. But without a growing labor supply, businesses may look to grow elsewhere – in other states, or in other countries where they can get the labor they need.
The DoL’s report underscores the alarm sounded in multiple prior reports, most recently one released last month, that Maine needs to aggressively grow its workforce, including by attracting, retaining and integrating immigrants.
While federal immigration policy desperately needs reform, there is much that Maine can do at the state and local levels to attract immigrants currently in other states, and to ensure that immigrants already in Maine choose to stay here and can maximize their potential.
In 2019, Maine will have a new legislature and a new governor. Maine’s business community and economic leaders should insist that those policy makers take steps to show clearly that Maine is welcoming to immigrants.