Maine’s men are steadily slipping away from the labor market, the BDN recently reported. Today, about 37,000 Maine men between the ages of 25 and 54 are not working and not looking for work, according to state estimates.

“We’ve got businesses that need people, and we’ve got people that need incomes. We’ve got to create that bridge,” Heather Johnson, executive director of the Somerset Economic Development Corp., said.

Creating that bridge may be difficult for the state’s non-working men, as many of the fastest-growing jobs in the state are in traditionally female-dominated fields. With manufacturing down by over 50 percent since its peak in the late 1970s, if a portion of Maine’s disengaged men decide to return to the labor market, their best options may be to take up what’s historically been seen as “women’s work.”

The three positions the state projects will add the most jobs through 2024 are all filled predominantly by women, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data. Here they are:

Registered nurse — 90 percent female, projected to add 1,602 jobs

As Maine ages, the state will need more registered nurses to care for its sick and elderly. Registered nurses administer medications, monitor patient recovery, keep medical records, and teach patients about self-care, among many other medical tasks. They work in a variety of health care settings, including nursing homes, hospitals, doctors’ offices, and patients’ homes. To become a registered nurse in Maine, at least an associate’s degree is required. (Nurse practitioners, on the other hand, must have at least a master’s degree.)  In 2016, Maine’s 14,910 registered nurses earned an average of $63,000 a year.

Personal care aide — 85 percent female, projected to add 1,155 jobs

The state’s aging population also means that more personal care aides will be needed. Personal care aides often work in an elderly or disabled person’s home, helping them with everyday tasks like cleaning, dressing, and eating, as well as providing them with conversation and company. They also sometimes work in group homes and residential facilities. With no formal education requirements, in 2016 Maine’s 13,340 personal care aides made on average $22,710 a year.

Customer service representative 65 percent female, projected to add 992 jobs

Customer service representatives provide information about a company’s products and services, handle and resolve complaints, and process orders. In 2016 Maine had 11,090 customer service representatives, making it one of the state’s largest occupations. It’s projected to add so many jobs mainly because it’s already such a large occupation group that even an average growth rate would result in more net job growth than most occupations, said Glenn Mills, chief economist for the Maine Department of Labor. 

In Maine, about two-thirds of customer service representatives work in call centers, according to Mills. They work a wide range of industries, including in lending, trade, communications and health care. In 2016, Maine’s customer service representatives, who must have at least a high school diploma, earned on average $34,820 per year.

Maine Focus is a journalism and community engagement initiative at the Bangor Daily News.

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