Demand for home health care, nursing home and hospital workers in Maine is expected to continue to surge through 2024, and industry leaders say they already are facing worker shortages ranging from entry-level caretakers to top administrators.

Maine’s overall labor force is expected to shrink slightly during the decade ending in 2024, which would be the first 10-year decline in workers and job-seekers since the 1960s. The state’s aging population, low birth rate and relative lack of in-migration are the key reasons, according to a new Maine Department of Labor report.

But in a few industries, led by health care, the need for workers is expected to increase. The report anticipates a need for at least 3,700 more workers in ambulatory health care services, 2,300 in hospitals and 1,900 in nursing and residential care facilities.

Health care and social assistance jobs already employ more Mainers than any other industry, according to the report. In 2014, the state had more than 100,000 of those jobs. By 2024, about 9,000 more will be needed, the report says.

There are two primary reasons, said Glenn Mills, chief economist at the Labor Department’s Maine Center for Workforce Research: Maine’s population will continue to age, and new medical technologies and treatments will require more specialists to administer them.

“There are all sorts of new ways of treating people,” Mills said.

Finding workers to take on all of those additional jobs may be difficult, given that Maine’s health care industry already is struggling to fill positions.

“The staffing shortages that we’re seeing right now in long-term care facilities are the tightest they’ve ever been in the 16 years I’ve been working here,” said Nadine Grosso, vice president and director of communications for the nonprofit Maine Health Care Association.

In the past, long-term care providers have had difficulty finding applicants to fill entry-level jobs, which pay as little as $9 an hour, Grosso said. What has changed recently is that it has become more difficult to fill midlevel and even top administrator positions.

“We’re starting to see those folks retire,” she said. “At all levels of experience, there’s a shortage.”

According to Mills, seven of every eight job openings in Maine between 2014 and 2024 will be to replace an existing worker who vacates a position by retiring, quitting or being fired. That figure is up from an estimate of six out of seven “replacement jobs” when the department published its 2022 workforce outlook two years ago.

Grosso said her association is launching a social media campaign this week to encourage young people in Maine to enter the health care field, and to connect them with prospective employers. The campaign will include videos of health care workers talking about why they find their profession rewarding. The videos will be posted on YouTube, Facebook and other social media sites in addition to the association’s website, mehca.org.

Benefits of working in the health care field include job security, opportunities for advancement and the ability to help people, Grosso said. Still, she said it’s possible that some young people are deterred by the accurate perception that health care jobs can be very demanding.

“The demands of the job might scare people,” she said. “It’s rewarding, but it’s hard work.”

INDUSTRIES IN FLUX

Another industry in which the demand for workers is expected to increase by 2024 is professional and business services, for which the Labor Department anticipates an increase of about 5,000 jobs. In general, Mills said the ongoing shift from production jobs to service jobs is expected to continue in Maine.

“The broader trends are largely a continuation of what’s been going on for a long time,” he said.

Accordingly, the department anticipates the greatest job losses in Maine to come from manufacturing. It predicts a loss of more than 6,000 manufacturing jobs from 2014 to 2024. The second-biggest job losses are expected to be in government, including jobs in public education. Nearly 4,000 government jobs are expected to be lost over the 10-year period.

By 2024, only about 13 percent of all jobs in Maine are expected to be goods-producing jobs, Mills said, down from 18 percent in 2000 and 44 percent in 1950. The rest will be service jobs.

A big reason for the anticipated decline of product-making jobs is the continued rise of automation, Mills said. Automation has been cutting into manufacturing jobs for years, and now even transportation jobs are being replaced.

“I’ve been in a factory where I saw forklifts moving around without a person,” he said.

The Labor Department report envisions a future in which most Mainers either will be performing high-level service jobs that require substantial education, or low-skill, low-wage jobs that can’t easily be automated. Midlevel, specialized labor jobs will continue to disappear.

The continuing transition of Maine’s workforce to service industries will lead to population shifts within the state, Mills said, as people relocate to urban areas where the majority of jobs will be.

“The industries that are growing tend to be in cities,” he said. “Health care, by definition, is almost always concentrated in a city.”