Charlie Colgan believes Maine is about to hit three consecutive quarters of job growth, which the state hasn’t done since 2007, before the Great Recession.

However, he pushed back Maine’s prognosis for a full jobs’ recovery. Way back.

To 2018.

Colgan will deliver the mixed-bag economic forecast as part of the New England Economic Partnership fall conference in Boston on Thursday.

In an interview, Colgan, a professor at the University of Southern Maine’s Muskie School for Public Service and a former state economist, said he was waiting for the release of numbers next week to confirm the job-streak.

“What I’m looking for and what I’m forecasting is that we’ll get three and, hopefully, four steady quarters of employment growth,” he said. “If we can just keep momentum on employment growth, that would be the sign we’ve really begun to make some headway.”

The state lost 29,000 jobs in the recent recession. It has gained back about 9,000.

Hampering Maine’s recovery: not enough people.

In most counties, deaths outnumber births. And in-migration, people moving here, has slowed, Colgan said. They’re needed to fill new jobs and existing jobs as people retire.

Some positions, such as doctors, can largely only be filled by people from outside, he said.

Due to that, he has forecast Maine’s unemployment rate dropping to 6 percent in 2016. “That’s from a combination of people leaving the workforce and robust job growth,” he said.

Colgan has forecast hiring in professional and business services and leisure and hospitality, with modest growth in retail, construction and manufacturing.

“People locked up their wallets; you’d expect retail to come back more,” Colgan said.

It is, to a point, but more people are shopping online: “The era of big-box construction is over,” he said. “We’re now pretty much at the tipping point. It’s starting to make a big difference in the employment numbers for retail.”

Most of the job gains are to come in late 2014 and 2015, then slow in 2016 and 2017. That slowdown, he said, will signal, on the national level, a return to normal growth versus recovery.

“The U.S. economy will come back onto a normal growth path, in a sense, too soon for Maine,” he said.

New England Forecast Manager Ross Gittell forecast that all of the jobs lost in the recession across New England will be gained back by 2014 — but not necessarily returned to the states in which they were lost.

Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Vermont are leading the region in growth, Gittell said. Hurting Maine is its distance from Boston, which has been doing well. Also hurting Maine: the mix of jobs and the low number of people with college degrees.

“The bright spot in the regional economy is the housing market,” Gittell said.

Construction work is up, as are housing prices. “That has turned from a deterrent to economic recovery to providing a sort of stimulus to the economy and improving the job outlook for the region,” he said.

Colgan expects spending to be up modestly this Christmas season. Income hasn’t grown to allow more than modest growth, he said. But, expect price wars.

“Retails are already trying to figure out how to move Black Friday into this week,” he said. “The retail industry is really chasing after those dollars. This will be a buyers’ market.”

He didn’t anticipate next year’s race for the Blaine House to factor in to the larger economy, with the exception of helping the advertising industry.

“There’s very little governors can do in the short run to affect the economy, whether a Republican, Democrat or independent,” Colgan said.

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