When it comes to online rankings and national publications, Maine isn’t always just being lauded for its delicious lobster rolls.
In an annual ranking by the financial website Money-rates.com, Maine is called one of the worst places in the country to make a living.
Only Hawaii and Oregon are tougher places to get by, according to the website, which looked at a range of criteria, including income levels and taxes.
The best place in America to make a living, Money-rates.com found, is Texas, where the unemployment rate and cost of living are low, and there’s no state income tax.
(That said, a lack of state income taxes didn’t guarantee a high ranking — Florida, New Hampshire, Nevada, Alaska and South Dakota all finished in the bottom half of states, plagued by either high costs of living, low income levels or big unemployment numbers.)
Here’s how the website described Maine, which it considered the third worst in the nation by these criteria:
“The biggest negative factor affecting workers in Maine is a high workplace incidence rate. Maine is tied for the highest frequency of workplace illness, injuries and fatalities. The state had 5.3 workplace incidents per 100 workers. On top of that, the average wage in Maine is below the national standard at $42,140, even though the cost of living is more than above average. Job growth in the state is forecast to be sluggish compared to the rest of the nation. The Maine Department of Labor predicts just 2.3 percent in employment gains between 2012 and 2022.”
The Maine Department of Labor has been quick to put some of Money-rate.com’s data in context, however.
John Rioux, director of the department’s Bureau of Labor Standards’ Technical Services Division, reported that the state’s workplace injury rate is high in part because Maine has an aggressive outreach program encouraging employers to report workplace injuries and instructing them how to do so.
Rioux’s team points out that while the state’s proactive workplace safety approach may drive up its numbers of injuries per 100 workers, many of those injuries are minor ones, and the success of the model can be found in Maine’s number of median days away from work — just five, compared to the national average of eight.
Other states, which either have a lackadaisical approach to collecting workplace safety data or don’t collect the data at all would appear in a study like Money-rate.com’s to be more safe than Maine, when in fact they’re just not reporting the injuries they have.
The department’s chief economist, Glenn Mills, adds that much of Money-rate.com’s other data can be tied to Maine’s notoriously aging population. With thousands from the Baby Boomer generation retiring and leaving the prime 25-54 working age population, Mills reported, indicators like the state’s personal income levels and employment numbers can be expected to tail off as well.