BANGOR, MAINE -- From left, Wendell Walters, Margie Peterson and Hillary Kennedy sign their names on the final steel beam to be placed in Eastern Maine Medical Center's modernization project, in this September 2014 file photo. Brian Feulner| BDN Credit: Brian Feulner | Bangor Daily News

Bangor has become more dependent on fewer industries for its jobs since the start of the Great Recession. But the city’s dependence on health care, both for pure numbers of jobs and higher pay, stands out, according to federal jobs figures.

Bangor’s health care economy continues to grow, accounting for a greater portion of jobs and total wages, long after health care and social assistance cemented its spot as the area’s largest industry.

In that regard, Bangor is far ahead of the national curve. Health care became the largest employer in the country last year. Bangor hit that mark two decades earlier, in 1998, according to a federal census of employers.

Demographics have been a major force behind that trend, with the country aging overall. Maine, with the highest median age in the nation, has led that trend. Nationally, Maine has the third-highest concentration of health care jobs.

The growing dependence on health care continued through the recession and recovery, as 11 of 17 industries in Bangor, including transportation and warehousing and the arts, became less important to the Bangor economy when compared to the rest of the state.

[The Bangor neighborhoods where people can’t afford their rent]

Last year, $4.50 of every $10 in wages in Bangor came from jobs in health care or social assistance, a category that includes hospitals, dentists, diagnostic testing labs and nursing and residential care facilities. That was about $4.00 in every $10 a decade ago. Only Waterville depends more on health care wages.

Detailed federal data for the Bangor metropolitan area — which encompasses all of Penobscot County — show even more specific breakdowns of changes in those concentrations, using what’s called a location quotient.

The Bangor metropolitan statistical area is expansive.

Values greater than 1 show where Bangor has a bigger share of wages in a particular industry than the state as a whole. Values less than 1 indicate the industries where wages are less concentrated than the state.

The figures reveal where the Bangor area’s economy has diverged from or become more similar to the statewide economy.

Looking at change in those location quotients from 2007 to 2017 shows just how the mix of industries around Bangor have shifted.

The area’s jobs figures show some industries where employment has dropped to zero. The jobs in those industries aren’t necessarily gone, but may have only one or two employers left in that category and, as a result, are no longer disclosed by the industry to protect private business information.

Besides health care, the data show a continued shift toward services, including accommodation and administrative support services, while most manufacturing subsectors took big hits.

Paper manufacturing is one such industry, hit hard in the last decade with a number of mill closures around Bangor, including the Bucksport, Old Town and Lincoln mills.

Behind that collapse, however, there are shifts that have received less attention in news reports and from state and local officials. That includes a slightly rising importance of motion picture and sound recording jobs — still below-average nationally and for the state, but a growing sector.

Animal production and aquaculture in the Bangor area grew from having a below-average contribution to total wages to an above-average impact for the state.

Maine Focus is a journalism and community engagement initiative at the Bangor Daily News. Questions? Write to

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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.