Nearly one of out of every six workers in Maine is employed by the government — federal, state or local. And according to the Maine Department of Labor Center for Workforce Research and Information, the average weekly wage paid to federal employees is considerably higher than the average earnings of workers across all other industries.
In Hancock County, the average weekly wage is $977 for a federal employee and $748 for a state employee. The average for nongovernmental workers was $725. Workers in local government averaged $676 a week.
In 10 of Maine’s 16 counties, state workers make more than the average weekly wage for nongovernmental workers, although the margins vary considerably. The chart provided below shows state workers in Washington County, for example, made on average $19 a week more than nongovernmental workers in 2017, while the difference in Lincoln County was $151. In some counties, Piscataquis for example, the pay gap is even greater, but the small number of state employees based there likely skews the figures.
In the six other counties, Androscoggin, Cumberland, Oxford, Sagadahoc and Somerset, state workers average lower weekly salaries than their counterparts in the private sector.
Statewide, the 58,465 local government employees (many of whom work in education) make considerably less than workers in other industries, averaging $757 per week compared to $836.
Maine had 15,215 federal employees in 2017, making an average of $1,432. The 22,217 state workers brought in an average of $871 per week. The statewide average for nongovernmental workers was $836 per week. So it’s not surprising that many Maine workers resent government employees who earn more and often have better benefits than they do.
In good news, the average wages of Maine’s nongovernment workers increased by a greater percentage (3.2) than those earned by government workers from 2016 to 2017, but that did little to close the gap in pay disparity.
In a state with a land mass of 33,000 square miles and only 1.34 million people, we require a significant number of government workers just to function. So it is critically important that the Governor and Legislature be ever more careful about how they spend taxpayer money. In many cases, those taxpayers are making less than the positions they’re funding. Essential state services must be constantly evaluated to assure that they are being provided as efficiently and effectively as possible.