Monday, December 9, 2013
Commercial Confidential tracks Maine's business leaders and economic indicators.
I'm an economics wonk and an online content producer for the Portland Press Herald.
"On the Move": Submit items of interest regarding new employees, promotions and professional honors — with photos and LinkedIn URLs — to business [at] pressherald.com.
Maine has a disproportionate number of self-employed workers. An August 2011 brief from the Maine Department of Labor estimated that 10.3% of workers in Maine are their own bosses — 66,000 workers in all. That's substantially higher than the national rate, which hovers around 7%.
Many of Maine's traditional industries are rooted in self-employed workers: lots of farmers, fishermen, carpenters and forestry workers are sole proprietors of their own enterprises. But a lot of the trendy "creative economy" workers that cities like Portland, Biddeford and Bangor are trying to attract are also independent contractors. The idea is that places in Maine with good quality of life and an internet connection can poach freelancers and telecommuters from the bigger cities to our south — effectively relocating bigger companies' back offices one worker at a time.
Back when the above-referenced report was published in 2011, I myself was one of those self-employed workers, writing copy and building websites for a living. Some of my clients were based down the street, while others were based in Boston or Seattle.
In the past 20 years, internet-based financial transactions have become integral to the global economy, from online personal banking to multi-million dollar stock transactions executed within microseconds.
We've come to trust the security of those transactions thanks to the Secure Socket Layer (SSL) protocol, which uses huge, unsolvable math problems to hide our personal data until it reaches a trusted recipient. Here's a metaphorical video of how it works:
We're not literally sending keys and padlocks over the internet, though. Instead, we're trading huge numbers that, when multiplied together like a key fitting a lock, generate even bigger numbers that can't be unscrambled into the original factors. The wikipedia article about prime factors explains:
"Determining the prime factors of a number is an example of a problem frequently used to ensure cryptographic security in encryption systems... it is relatively easy to construct a problem that would take longer than the known age of the universe to solve on current computers using current algorithms."
This week at pressherald.com we're welcoming the new Franco-American blog from Juliana L’Heureux, who plans to write about Maine's Franco-American history and culture.
While we were getting the new blog set up, a couple people in my Twitter feed pointed out a new online mapping tool from the US Census Bureau that plots the neighborhoods where the speakers of various foreign languages live (the Census has been asking citizens about what languages they speak at home since 1890).
The dots are sparser in Maine than they are in much of the nation, but the maps do offer some insights into the state's history of immigration.
Here's a sample:
Yesterday's "Maine By the Numbers" box ran a surprising and seemingly disheartening bit of data:
Hourly earnings for nonfarm workers in the Portland/South Portland/Biddeford metro area in July 2013
Hourly earnings for nonfarm workers in the Portland/South Portland/Biddeford metro area in July 2012
If you haven't visited our online business section at pressherald.com/business lately, have a look — we've added a couple new features to help keep our readers up to date.