This is the last retrospective, I promise. But an interesting one, I hope.
While data on Maine’s economy for 2014 is still rolling in (and will be for up to another year), we’re able to reflect on at least a few trends, most of which show the same broader story of Maine’s slow recovery from recession.
Cutting to the chase:
On jobs, as I’ve reported before, Maine gained some ground but remains behind pre-recession job totals. As for job gains, each month of 2014 (still holding out for December figures though) showed an increase over the previous year.
But that comes with another story that’s not so great: median household incomes are basically flat with 2000 and are lower than just before the recession. Not adjusted for inflation, the average weekly paycheck is going up, but so are prices of everyday goods.
That said, consumer confidence was up for one of the biggest purchases an individual or family may make: homes. Other measures, like taxable retail sales, also show that Mainers are spending more as well. Home sales were expected to taper off a little more than they did in 2014, but that expectation was partly cautious about whether interest rates would go up during the year, which they didn’t. At the same time, the median prices for homes did not rise much, a sign of some slack that may have been an edge for buyers.
And while 2014 was a year of notable bankruptcies, it was a year of fewer bankruptcies overall. Looking at the recent years from January through October (that’s the latest available for 2014), bankruptcies were down another 14 percent after steady double-digit declines since 2010.
And a few indicators of the state’s tourist season show solid gains in 2014, with another year of gains in both restaurant and lodging sales and rise in leisure and hospitality sector employment. Turnpike traffic was up each month from January to August, too.
For the things produced here and headed to other markets, Maine in 2014 was about 2 percent behind the pace for January through October of 2013. But within that, there were big gains for grain exports, iron and steel, fish and seafood products and a range of other items. Wood pulp and paper products were down the most for the year. (It’s worth noting here that some changes are due to new shipping routes opening up — Eimskip’s opening of a direct port to Europe being one of those changes likely fueling the rise in fish and grain exports.)
These are just a few of the metrics I’ll track through 2015. If you have any other ideas for economic indicators to watch, let me know in the comments.