Cost of living / Income Trends in Maine
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Income Growth in Real Dollars
Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Center for Workforce Research and Information, and from the Maine Center for Economic Policy were gathered and complied into Figure 1 and Figure 2 above. These statistics show the growth trends in per-capita income in Maine both statewide and by county. Alongside the nominal growth numbers, we show the change in the livable wage in each county for varying households from 1999 when the Maine Center for Economic Policy was first charged with calculating the Living Wage to 2008.
What we see from the data is that for most household categories, income has risen more than the cost of living, inferring that the average Mainer has more disposable income today than in 1999. One notable exception is the single parent household. When we compare the change in living costs for single adults to those of single parents with two children, we can see that independent workers have enjoyed a steadily growing standard of living, but it has become increasingly difficult for a single wage earner to support a family in Maine. This is especially acute in places such as Hancock and Washington county, as well as the major metropolitan regions, where the cost of living for single parents has risen more than income, leaving that demographic poorer than in 1999.
The shrinking real income of single parents puts upward pressure on the demand for social services and government programs. When compared to the Nation and New England, Mainers receive a higher percentage of household income from government transfers (welfare, unemployment and disability) even though the 7.2% unemployment rate in Maine is lower than the National average.
Employment By Industry
Of the fifty largest private employers in Maine, only 26 employ more than 1,000 people statewide. Of these, ten are healthcare and social service related, seven are manufacturers, six are retailers, three are finance/insurance firms, and the final three are a utility, a private school, and a research laboratory.
Implications for Maine’s Budget
Maine’s government faces the following problems as they contemplate the budget:
A) Rising demand for social services and government expenditure coupled with
B) Shrinking manufacturing and construction sectors, which leads to the need for retraining of Maine’s laborers for high-tech manufacturing and other skilled trade labor (health care, finance, etc.)
Both of these economic forces put pressure on policymakers to expand funding for social services and education, which directly opposes the current administration’s goals to cut costs.