Stephen Buckley, who was formerly incarcerated, works to install solar panels. Workers like him helped to fill Maine's workforce gaps throughout the pandemic. Credit: Courtesy of Stephen Buckley

The influx of working-age people into Maine during the pandemic has partially offset the number of workers aging out of the workforce, a report released Wednesday by the Maine Department of Labor found.

The report, which is updated every two years, provides a 10-year employment outlook from 2020 to 2030. This year’s forecast was complicated by the pandemic, which caused historically large job losses in the spring of 2020 and saw a recovery from that summer until 2022, when the number of nonfarm jobs returned to pre-pandemic levels.

Employment in the state is expected to increase by 15,700 over the decade. But the rise projected in the new report is entirely because of the low employment level of 2020, which made the job growth look higher than it would have been if the pandemic had not happened.

The previous report, published in 2020 and covering the period from 2018 to 2028, indicated that employment in Maine was likely to peak between 2022 and 2024 before modestly contracting through 2028. Fewer births left the state with more people reaching retirement age than young people reaching working age.

The 2030 projection is close to what was expected for 2028. The large baby boom generation will be two years older and more of them will be retired in 2030 than in 2028. However, the recent influx of working-age people has partially offset the aging out of workers.

It is likely that employment will peak sometime before 2030, unless in-migration continues at a high rate, the report said. Many people opted to move from congested to less densely populated places during the pandemic, driving an influx of people to the state. Data is not yet available, but it appears that in-migration continued in 2022. Remote work opportunities and more retired people have contributed to this because more people have flexibility to choose where to live. It is unclear at this point how long this pattern will continue, the report said.