AUGUSTA – Deliberations over the next two months could shape much of the agenda for whomever is elected to the governorship and Legislature in November. The state of Maine’s Consensus Economic Forecasting Commission met Tuesday to review the economy and heard descriptions of a sluggish performance.
A state Labor Department snapshot, which Gov. John Baldacci called “generally positive,” portrayed some rebound on the jobs front.
“Overall, the employment situation is showing some improvement in 2006. Nonfarm wage and salary jobs are up as are the number of residents employed.
“Labor force growth is up by nearly 1 percent for the first eight months of the year and resident employment is up by 1.2 percent. For both numbers, Maine’s performance lags somewhat behind U.S. averages for the same period,” the Labor Department briefing report said.
“It’s better, but not great,” said panel leader Charles Colgan, a professor at the Muskie School of Public Service at the University of Southern Maine.
A State Planning Office summary said the first three quarters of 2006 showed some, if slow, economic growth.
“Most of the major economic indicators were higher than the same period last year,” the planning office said.
“In August, Maine’s Coincident Economic Index, a composite measure that tracks the growth of gross state product, was 0.5 percent higher than one year earlier. The unemployment rate was 4.7 percent, equal to the national rate.
“Total personal income in the first half of 2006 was 5.2 percent higher than the same period one year ago. Still, the state has faced rising interest rates, high energy prices and the continued contraction of manufacturing – challenges shared with the rest of the nation,” the planning office report said.
In its February report, the advisory commission updated its forecast for wage and salary employment growth, personal income growth and consumer price inflation.
Expressing more pessimism than in its October 2005 forecast, the commission lowered its predictions for job growth and personal income growth for 2005 through 2009 and scaled up its inflation forecast for the same period.
A new commission update has not yet been made final.