Maine’s economy ended 2014 on a good note

Sales were up, bankruptcies were down and more people were employed at the end of 2014 than at the start of the year.

By most monthly measures through December, Maine’s economy continued a steady climb out from the recession started in late 2007. Figures are still not out for earnings and wages, however, where there has been little movement in recent years.

But the big picture looks better. See for yourself in the views below.

The big picture: Maine’s economic growth continues to lag the pace of the region and country, but is still on the rise. General merchandise spending rose another 1 percent with the largest increase in December, to close out the year. Chapter 7 bankruptcies continued to decline from highs in 2010 amid fallout from the Great Recession.

Sales tax: Restaurants and hotels fared well last year, with another year of steady growth in sales, up 13 percent in December alone and 4.6 percent for the entire year. While tourism was hot, growth in sales categories most likely reflecting in-state spending grew at a more modest clip. General merchandise sales were up slightly and sales in the other retail category — think specialty stores — showed larger gains for the year, despite having some months of declines in sales in March and September.

Slower growth in those categories isn’t necessarily a bad thing if households are finding more room to save money. Whether individual households or businesses, the total amount of bank deposits held in Maine was up slightly last year, by about $50 million, on about $37.8 billion in total deposits.

Jobs: The state closed out 2014 with a gain of somewhere in the range of 5,000 jobs, but remained at about 10,000 jobs below the pre-recession high. The estimate of job seekers who couldn’t find work ticked down again in December (January figures won’t be out until March 17) to about 5.5 percent, or about 1 percentage point lower than one year earlier.

Housing: As an indicator of people willing to commit to large purchases, housing sales volume continued to rise in 2014, though the pace of that growth slowed for a second year and prices remained stagnant. New homes also appeared to be on the rise, with another year of double-digit growth in building permits for single-family homes.

Elsewhere on the major purchases front, automobile-related spending was also up for every month of the year with a substantial increase in December that, it stands to reason, was influenced somewhat by a historic dip in gas prices.

The economic indicators used here are available for regular reference at a fixed page on this blog. They are a mix of indicators that are available on a monthly basis and that reflect a time within at least the last three months. If you have suggestions of other economic indicators I should track, shoot me an email. I appreciate everyone who’s already reached out with suggestions. 

Darren Fishell

About Darren Fishell

Darren is a Portland-based reporter for the Bangor Daily News writing about the Maine economy and business. He's interested in putting economic data in context and finding the stories behind the numbers.