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New report identifies 'gold stars' and 'red flags' across Maine's economy

The Maine Economic Growth Council released its 28th annual Measures of Growth report Thursday analyzing our state's economy.

AUGUSTA, Maine — As the year comes to a close, Maine leaders are looking to break down the state's successes and identify areas of improvement in each sector.  

The Maine Economic Growth Council releases its annual Measures of Growth findings every year. The committee is made up of bipartisan legislators, and experts from the private and public sectors.

"Oftentimes there’s sort of political football of what’s going on in the economy, who’s to blame," Maine Development Foundation President and CEO Yellow Breen said. 

This year's findings include data from 31 categories, five were given "gold stars" and six were given "red flags."

Credit: NCM

The good news is that Maine saw growth in entrepreneurship as the number of new start-up businesses exceeded closures by nine percent in 2020. Greenhouse gas emissions also fell by two percent from 2018 to 2019, according to the report.

Maine's crime rates dropped again, making safety another positive category in the findings. Water quality also remained high in 2022, another "gold star" category.

A big surprise for Breen, the increase in wages for Maine workers. The study found wages increased by 0.5 percent in 2021 after adjusting for inflation, according to the report.

"We’ve been lagging forever, the gap was pretty sizable [compared to other states], and yet, the last couple of years, even against the same challenges every state has had, Maine has done better in this recovery of bringing back those higher-wage jobs or keeping those higher-wage jobs," Breen added.

Maine's Department of Economic & Community Development Commissioner Heath Johnson said, while the progress in some sectors is promising, there "are still a lot of areas that need work."

Those areas include rising costs of energy and health care, housing affordability dropping compared to years past, Maine's labor force participation is still below the nation's average, and only recording a slight growth in research and development.

"We can’t do what we’ve always done. But we need to take what we’ve always done well and figure out how to innovate there so we can strengthen those supply chains and then create new opportunism going forward," Johnson added.

Tracking mental and behavioral services was the new category added to this year's report. Looking at available services across the state, the committee added it as another "red flag" for Maine to focus on this year.

Representative Jack Ducharme (R-Madison) is one legislator on the committee. He said these reports are used as a resource during legislative sessions.

“It’s not something that’s going to give us answers, but it gives us the data that we can look at because I think the answers come within us," he added.

The economic experts in the State House also said it's important for Maine to have a strong economy heading into months of uncertainty with rising interest rates and the threat of a recession.

In her remarks, Johnson did add, big picture, Maine's Gross Domestic Product rose 8th fastest in the nation since 2019.

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