Despite a new U.S. Census Report that shows a 3.3 percent drop in Maine’s median household income, the state is fostering new economic growth due to low unemployment and industry innovations.
“I would caution reading too much into these household income estimates for overall economic well-being,” Ryan Wallace, director of the Maine Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Southern Maine, told The Center Square. “But certainly, the demographic profile of Maine shows more people moving into retirement from the labor force.”
What the working population is actually earning in certain industries is starting to move up, especially in tight labor market conditions, Wallace said.
“In Portland, unemployment is below 2 percent, and businesses and organizations are trying to entice people," he said. "Typically, you will see wages bid up. Industry wages and other metrics are actually showing growth.”
Wallace acknowledged Maine’s demographics present a long-term challenge.
“We’re old-age heavy, the median age is 44.9, that’s the oldest in the nation,” Wallace said. “So, you have a lot of folks moving into retirement. From 2016-26, we expect to see 113,000 people moving into retirement ages. That’s more people living on fixed incomes and drawing on retirement savings which may not be captured in those household numbers."
The Census report showed the 2018 estimate for Maine’s median household income was $55,602.
“When you adjust that from the 2017 median of $57,486, that’s about a 3.3 percent drop,” Wallace said.
It’s also below the 2018 national median household income of $61,937, but Wallace noted that several counties in southern Maine are well above the national median.
“Because we have an older population, one way to counter that is getting people to move to the state, whether international or domestic, and you can do that by showing the quality of life that Maine has to offer. Portland is a hot spot right now. So, it’s that, coupled with new innovations in legacy industries like forest products and the marine sector, which has the aqua culture gaining speed.
“Maine’s brand as a tremendous quality of life coupled with innovative activities will help bring people to Maine,” Wallace added.