Speaker of Maine House and Gov. LePage disagree on state’s employment picture


AUGUSTA — Mark Eves, speaker of the Maine House of Representatives, said Friday the state is still lagging behind the rest of New England when it comes to job creation.

Eves, D-North Berwick, was reacting to the last round of employment data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics that shows employment levels for the month of November.

“Maine’s economy is not recovering fast enough,” Eves said in a prepared statement.”If we were keeping pace with the rest of the country, we would have at least 16,000 more jobs right now. That’s more than 1,000 jobs for each county in Maine. We should be leading, not lagging.”

Eves’ message was in contrast to one sent earlier in the day by Republican Gov. Paul LePage.

LePage touted an unemployment rate of 5.7 percent, which is down from 5.8 percent in October and 6.4 percent in November 2013.

“Our policies are working, and more and more Mainers are able to get a job and support their family,” LePage said in a prepared statement. “We will keep working until every Mainer who wants a good career can get one.”

According to LePage, the total number of unemployed workers has decreased by more than 5,400 year to year. Private-sector jobs in Maine were up by 7,300 from 2013 while government-sector jobs declined by 400, according to LePage.

However, Eves highlighted data from the Maine Center for Economic Policy showing Maine ranks 44th in the nation when it comes to recovering jobs lost since the 2008 recession.

LePage said the state remains focused on workforce development to help the unemployed and those on welfare develop the skills they need for the state’s labor markets.

“We are also looking at ways in which we can grow our skilled workforce,” LePage said. “Our administration is committed to transitioning a welfare recipient to a career. It takes dedicated resources, time and effort of both the person receiving benefits and those providing the support.”