Lynn Abbott, a human resources specialist with the city of Biddeford, took her current job because of the four-day workweek and to get a better work-life balance. Credit: Courtesy of the city of Biddeford

Maine job seekers are in step with national trends in demanding higher salaries in the face of inflation and worker shortages.

At the same time, they are favoring employers with reputations for appreciating their workers and encouraging professional growth, recruiters in Maine said.

“We’re seeing a lot of job seekers who are really wanting to find longevity,” Jodie Griffith, managing director of Manpower Maine in Biddeford, said. “And they want to be recognized for a job well done.”

Workers in Maine also are demanding higher salaries, but only slightly higher, she said. Maine is behind the national curve in adjusting to what job seekers are looking for. Nationally, the average full-time wage offer received in the past four months increased sharply to an average of more than $69,000 in July, up 14 percent from last year, according to a Federal Reserve Bank of New York survey released Monday.

Read More

The increase was broad-based across age, education and income groups, but was the strongest for workers older than 45 and college graduates. The Maine Department of Labor does not have comparable data for the state.

Corporate profits in Maine are rising faster than labor costs, suggesting that businesses are keeping profits rather than passing them along in worker wages, James Myall, a policy analyst at the liberal Maine Center for Economic Policy, said.

It still is difficult to hire workers, but Maine’s labor market is a little less tight than it was last year, he said. The national Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey estimated there were about 41,000 job openings in Maine each month between April and June of this year, which is significantly higher than the 32,000 in the same months of 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The labor market in Maine may be loosening a small amount, but it remains very strong,” Myall said. “That’s corroborated by the low unemployment rate.”

Employers are trying different strategies to attract the small pool of potential workers. The city of Biddeford, along with other Maine municipalities, is offering a four-day work week to entice new employees. But sought-after benefits by job seekers go well beyond flexible hours or work-from-home arrangements, Mary Libby, director of recruiting services at ProSearch in Portland, said.

“People want collaboration, respect and opportunity for growth,” Libby said.

She recommended that prospective employees meet as many people as possible at the company where they are interviewing and ask those people why they are there and why they stay. The turnover rate is important, Libby said.

Some companies have become more open to increasing salaries over the past three or so years, Griffith said. Others can’t afford to do so and end up not filling jobs. The hiring situation is still dire in the state, even with jobs that pay the $13.80 per hour minimum wage.

“Just the other day I saw McDonald’s in Biddeford was hiring at $19 per hour, so that tells you something,” Griffith said.

Lori Valigra, investigative reporter for the environment, holds an M.S. in journalism from Boston University. She was a Knight journalism fellow at M.I.T. and has extensive international reporting experience...