Over the last 20 years, Maine has lost 42 percent of its manufacturing jobs, shrinking from 89,900 workers in January 1991 to 51,800 workers in January of this year.

The recession has contributed to the losses in Maine’s manufacturing sector. From December 2007 to June 2009, Maine lost 12.5 percent of its manufacturing workforce.

Despite the discouraging trend, fewer manufacturers anticipate they will lay off workers this year, compared to last year.

These are some details laid out in a report released Tuesday by U.S. Rep. Michael Michaud, D-2nd District. The report is based on the results of a survey in which 85 Maine manufacturers participated.

Michaud said that he will use the report to draft legislation to address specific concerns raised in the survey.

“Despite some troubles in the sector, Maine manufacturers appear to be as resilient as ever. With the right focus and policies, we can capitalize on our manufacturing sector’s strength and help it grow and create jobs,” Michaud said in a news release.

Specifically, 14 businesswomen and 71 businessmen responded. Thirty-three percent represented services or retail industries, and 26 percent represented precision manufacturing. The others included equipment manufacturers, process manufacturers, metal fabrication companies, plastics companies and several businesses in agriculture, woodworking, textiles and wine making or brewing.

Of those surveyed, an overwhelming majority of 67 percent said they were strongly rooted in the state and do not plan to move their business. Eighteen percent said they were rooted in Maine but had considered leaving. Six companies, or 7 percent, said they will move when the time is right.

About 13 percent of respondents said they would lay off workers this year. That number is an improvement from last year, however, when 27 percent of the survey participants laid off employees.

In addition, more than half of the manufacturers, at 58 percent, said they would maintain their workforce, and 28 percent said they would hire more workers. More than half said their profitability for this year would either stay the same or increase from 2010 to 2011.

Just because a company wants to hire more workers, however, does not mean they are able to find people with the necessary skills, according to the report. More than half of respondents, at 56 percent, said it was either difficult or very difficult to find qualified candidates to fill vacancies.

They recommended that high schools, vocational schools and community colleges connect better with businesses to help train students for manufacturing jobs.

The manufacturing sector provides many jobs to military veterans, according to the survey. About 56 percent of those surveyed said they employ veterans, and many said they do so because of their training.

One company said, “veteran employees are highly skilled and usually have a very strong work ethic.” Another said veterans “come with good training, skills and discipline.”

Maine has the third largest number of veterans as a percentage of the population, according to the report. More than 10 percent of Mainers have served in the military.

The unemployment rate among veterans is increasing, and is now higher than the non-veteran unemployment rate, according to 2011data from the Maine Department of Labor.

According to the report, businesses said they are most worried about health care costs, government regulation and taxes. Only 16 percent of manufacturers surveyed contract with the federal government. Those that do not cited red tape as the primary reason why.

Erin Rhoda — 612-2368

[email protected]


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