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Maine Development Foundation


Report: Aging workers, forestry woes hinder Maine’s economy

By Darren Fishell, BDN Staff


April 25th, 2017

PORTLAND, Maine — Watchful eyes on Maine’s economy have started to track the state’s prime working age population and the potential of its tree harvest alongside other metrics of socio-economic health.

The Maine Development Foundation’s latest annual report added those measures to the assessment of the state’s economy, pointing to the decline in people between the ages of 18 and 64 as a broad economic threat.

And the state’s recent balance of tree growth and harvesting, it found, is headed in the wrong direction.

The two additions reflect new areas of focus for annual report that measures the state’s progress in a variety of comparisons with other similar states and national averages.

Both represent broad economic challenges for the state: how to attract and retain younger workers to balance out the oldest state population in the country and how to reinvigorate the state’s forest economy.

For each measure, the report sets out specific goals, usually in relation to similar states, other New England states or a national average. For the workforce measure, the report hopes the population between the age of 18 and 64 will remain steady or increase relative to the national average.

For 2015, the latest year with that data, that didn’t happen. The share of the state’s population in that age range dropped by 1.5 percentage points as the national share stayed flat.

The report also raised concern that the state’s not making the most of its forest resources, with still more room for sustainable harvesting, according to figures from state officials. The report said the change “may be related to a reduction in certain wood fiber markets.”

Trade has also played a role in softwood demand, with U.S. regulators on Tuesday setting 20 percent trade duties on softwood lumber from Canada.

The report pointed to cause for concern in four other areas: fourth-grade reading scores, higher education attainment, transportation infrastructure and research and development spending.

At the highest level, the report gave a mixed review to the state’s recent economic performance, which it measures against The latest report found income per person and employment were on the upswing. Meanwhile, the state lagged behind for growth in its gross domestic and in the value added to raw products per worker.
Value added per worker in New England, similar states and the national average (p. 8)
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The report noted no change in progress on the state’s poverty rate, which remained below the national level.

The report found the state did particularly well on measures of air and water quality and for international trade. State exports increased in 2016 as the value of national exports declined.

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