BANGOR (AP) – Unemployment in Maine is expected to continue rising in the next few months as new jobs are created but can’t be filled because of a lack of skilled workers, a state official said.

John Dorrer, director of the state’s Labor Market Information Services, said job gains are being made as the economy continues its recovery. But, he added, there is a mismatch between the available jobs and the skills or education levels of the people available for work.

“We’re looking for an economy that will be pretty robust – a job creator – but we will have some challenges filling those jobs,” Dorrer said during a presentation Friday to the Maine Jobs Council.

Maine’s unemployment rate last month rose 0.3 percent to 4.5 percent. While the number of employed residents rose by 1,400 to 669,700 in August, the number of unemployed Mainers also increased, from 29,200 to 31,900.

Dorrer said by 2012, the state will add more than 68,000 new positions to the services sector, which includes education, health services, retail, leisure and hospitality, and business and professional fields.

While those jobs are opening up, the manufacturing sector by 2012 is expected to lose 10,000 jobs on top of the more than 14,800 positions that have been eliminated since 2001, he said.

Dorrer said more women than men have exhausted their unemployment benefits lately. While looking for work, they are finding that they are not qualified for open positions because they’re trained to handle specific tasks on a manufacturing line rather than a cash register, he said.

More people older than 40 are also looking for work and finding that some businesses are telling them they are too old for the job, he said.

And nearly 18 percent of young adults are considered to be “disconnected” from the work force because they do not have a high school diploma or any job skills, Dorrer said.

Gov. John Baldacci, speaking to the Maine Jobs Council, said the state should continue to create jobs and educational programs that people can enter to learn work skills needed for those positions.

The state, however, cannot tell people which job to take, he said. It’s up to the job seekers themselves to decide their destiny by taking advantage of the programs.

Dorrer’s snapshot of the work force is expected to be used by the Maine Jobs Council to come up with programs and legislation that eventually will match people with jobs.

The average wage of the industries that are gaining jobs is $27,290 compared with $35,529 for industries losing jobs, Dorrer said.

AP-ES-09-25-04 1402EDT


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