The western Maine town of Rangeley saw a population boom in 2020 as people sought a safe haven from urban centers during the pandemic. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

Maine is the only state where every county gained income from 2020 to 2021, due to a swelling population during the COVID-19 pandemic when people fled large cities in favor of safer, more rural communities, a new study found.

Tax data compiled by the Economic Innovation Group and reported by Axios on Tuesday shows every county in Maine gained millions of dollars in taxable income from more than 26,000 people migrating to Maine in 2020 and 2021.

Those increases range from $15.3 million in Somerset County to $260.8 million in York County, according to Economic Innovation Group’s data.

Even though Maine’s largest cities lost some residents from 2020 to 2021, the state’s population overall grew by roughly 16,000, making it among the top U.S. destinations in terms of net migration during the early days of the pandemic. That growth trend continued into 2022 when Maine ranked second nationally as the state with the highest percentage of inbound moves.

The state’s pandemic-era migration was the largest population growth the state had seen in two decades, which also put new demands on Maine’s limited housing market.

The median household income in Maine is almost 10 percent below the national average, which means new out-of-state residents tend to have more financial resources to buy Maine’s relatively affordable real estate. This, in part, led many Maine communities to see home prices rise by at least 30 percent since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The pandemic also spurred a shift in the state’s job landscape as people were forced to leave their job because of layoffs or other pandemic-related cutbacks.

A 2022 report from Maine’s Center for Workforce Research and Information found Maine retail trade workers who shifted sectors during the pandemic were most likely to be reemployed in the health care and social assistance and the accommodation and food services sectors.

Kathleen O'Brien is a reporter covering the Bangor area. Born and raised in Portland, she joined the Bangor Daily News in 2022 after working as a Bath-area reporter at The Times Record. She graduated from...