More on Maine’s Wages

A previous looked at the recently released Quarterly Census Employment Wages data.  That data, released by the BLS, breaks down average wages for every county in the country by industry.  It’s a useful data point, but some comments I read on-line noted that the average is not the best metric to measure wages, and instead we should look at median wages.  True, median is a better metric (here is a 2008 post from Lane Kentworthy, and a 2011 article from Uwe E. Reinhardt that look at the fallibility of the average wage metric.)

However, while median wages are preferable, median wages at the state level are released once a year by the BLS.  Moreover, while the data is broken down by industry and metro area, they are not broken down by county.  Similarly, the monthly jobs data reports on average hourly and weekly wages, and other reports use average rather than median.  As a result, the availability of data requires the usage of average wage data rather than median.

There were a few other criticisms, such as the data did not compare industries, and it was not initially adjusted for the differences in cost of living between the six New England states.  Below are the median wages for each major industry published by the BLS, adjusted for cost of living using the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center’s 2013 cost of living index.  One thing not done below is track trends of wages over a time period rather than just look at a snapshot of data*.

And finally, here’s the data.  Maine ranks third for wages in all occupations, and ranks first in Farming, Fishing, and Forestry, Production, and Transportation and Material Moving occupations.  Meanwhile, in the STEM related fields, where some argue Maine is facing a shortage of labor, the state lags the rest of New England, ranking 5th in Computer and Mathematics occupations and Life, Physical, and Social Science occupations, and 3rd in Architecture and Engineering occupations**.

(click images to enlarge)

NE Median All Occs

NE Median Sales and Related

NE Median Office and Admin

NE Median Farming, fishing, forestry

NE Median Construction

NE Median Maintenance

NE Median Production

NE Median Transportation

NE Median Healthcare tech

NE Median Healthcare support

NE Median Protective

NE Median Serving

NE Median Building Maintenance

NE Median Personal Care


NE Median Management

NE Median Biz Fin wages

NE Median Comp and Math

NE Median Arch and Eng

NE Median LPO

NE Median Comm and Soc. svcs

NE Median Wages Legal

NE Median ETL

NE Median Sports Media


*To track trends in wages I’d want to look at those trends pre-recession, and simply I haven’t had the time to compile 8 years of data for 6 states and 22 industries.  Obviously looking at trends is more beneficial, but the above data does highlight where Maine stands relative to the rest of New England, and can lend some insight into the issues of brain drain and the like.  

**As noted in a previous post, the issue with the STEM skills gap argument is that wags are not just low in Maine relative elsewhere, but that they are not accelerating as one would expect when a good or service becomes scarce and demand increase.


John Haskell

About John Haskell

John graduated from the University of Southern Maine with a degree in Political Science, and from the University of Maine School of Law. He has worked in both the public and private sectors, and currently, works with a small business services company in the Mid-Coast area.