November 13, 2013

Maine economist: Job growth to remain sluggish

The leading job sectors will be in professional and business services and leisure and hospitality, according to the outlook.

The Associated Press

Maine won’t reach pre-recession employment levels for at least four more years despite being poised to have three straight quarters of job increases for the first time since 2007, according to a new economic forecast.

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This May 2013 photo shows construction work on the new Marriott hotel on Commercial Street in Portland. According to economist Charles Colgan, leisure and hospitality will be the leading job sectors over the next four years.

John Ewing / Staff Photographer

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The economic projections for New England states were released Wednesday, the day before they were to be presented at the New England Economic Partnership’s fall conference in Boston.

In Maine, economist Charlie Colgan of the University of Southern Maine said he’s expecting very slow employment growth for the next 12 months, with a possible pickup in 12 to 36 months.

“The outlook for mid-2013 to the end of 2017 is for sustained growth, averaging 0.7 percent per quarter, or about 1,000 jobs on average,” Colgan wrote. “The forecast is for 617,000 jobs at the end of 2017, which would not bring Maine back to the pre-recession levels of 620,000 jobs.”

The leading job sectors will be in professional and business services and leisure and hospitality, according to the outlook. Manufacturing will continue to struggle, government will continue cutting jobs and retail trade employment will experience only meager growth.

The housing market is recovering, although the only measure that will return to pre-recession levels is median house prices, Colgan wrote.

Maine’s economy is facing a significant “headwind” in the state’s aging population, the report says.

The outlook for growth in Maine’s work force does not look bright with baby boomers retiring and low birth rates. It will take people moving to the state to increase population number, Colgan said.

“Within five years, the only population growth in Maine will come from net in-migration, and this will have significant implications because it will require a complete reversal of recent in-migration trends,” he wrote.

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