State commission says LePage era ended with boom in personal income

Governor Paul LePage gives a speech. Courtesy Governor Paul LePage Facebook page.

AUGUSTA – Maine’s Consensus Economic Forecasting Commission met last week to go over the final numbers that tell the story of Maine’s economy in 2018, the last year of Paul LePage’s time as Governor.

What they announced, published in a report, is that personal income in Maine grew by 5.3% in 2018, up from their previously estimated 4.5%. That upward revision means personal income grew at a rate almost 20% higher than the commission estimated, and at the highest rate since the turn of the century.

The growth represents a sea change from the years before LePage, where Maine saw personal income growth -0.1 and 2.2 percent growth in the last two years of the Baldacci era, according to historical data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Even in a couple of the early years of LePage’s first term, growth was not as strong, hitting a speed bump in 2013 before beginning a sustained run of 3-5.3% growth per year from 2013-14 to 2017-18.

The final years of LePage’s time in office saw a record breaking streak of unemployment rates below 4 percent for more than 36 months. That was the longest streak on record.

The economy overall has seen much more impressive growth under President Donald Trump than under his predecessor Barack Obama. In the months leading up to the 2016 Presidential election, Trump took heavy fire for saying he would boost the U.S. economy to levels of growth that Obama had never been able to achieve.

But all signs point to the growth of the American economy under Trump so far well exceeding the growth under Obama.

Maine’s story could change over the next few years. Some significant changes that many would expect to burden the state’s economy were passed in the early months of 2019. Those changes and any that the Maine Legislature passes in the coming year could put some additional weight on the growth.

There is also the concern that Governor Janet Mills will move forward with a multi-state agreement to add a new tax on gasoline in a multi-state agreement. Pegged at 20 cents per gallon, some experts say the tax would serve as a significant hindrance to Maine businesses that, as of now, appear to be in growth mode.

The commission’s report provided information on the growth sectors in Maine’s economy. Professional and business services, manufacturing and construction led the way in 2018 for job growth with 2.8%, 2.0% and 1.7% growth, respectively.

Education and health services jobs grew at only 0.1% while jobs in the transportation/public utilities sector and information saw slight declines.

The commission is forecasting personal income growth to slow from 2019 to 2023, eventually settling at 3.5% growth in the final year of the forecast. Many factors come into play with any consensus forecast by the commission.

The commission is made up of five commissioners.

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