PORTLAND – After losing thousands of jobs during the recession, Maine’s employment market appears to have stabilized in 2010 and the economy is poised to add jobs this year, according to new state data and predictions by economists.

“After the big downward spiral, we have established a bottom, but we haven’t started to go up significantly,” said Glenn Mills, director of economic research for the Maine Department of Labor’s Center for Workforce Research and Information.

Mills and his colleagues in the Department of Labor are revising data from 2010 household unemployment surveys and business payroll surveys. The final figures won’t be out for a few weeks, but Mills said the numbers indicate that Maine’s economy started and ended the year with nearly the same number of nonfarm jobs, about 593,000.

That’s a notable improvement from 2008 and 2009, when the economy lost 30,000 jobs over the course of both years, Mills said.

Mills said most industries appeared to stabilize in 2010 — even the volatile construction sector, which was “really pounded during the recession.”

“It’s surprising, the amount of stability that returned to all the individual sectors all at the same time,” Mills said.

Charles Colgan, a University of Southern Maine public policy and planning professor who works with The New England Economic Partnership, said the state’s numbers “are a good indicator that we have turned the corner in the job market.”

“It was the first step we needed to take,” he said.

Colgan predicts that employers in Maine will add 6,000 jobs in 2011. He said the job growth may start slow, but will likely accelerate in the third and fourth quarters.

Some executive recruiters and career consultants say they already see improvements in the job market.

“(There is) no question that the hiring has begun,” said David Ciullo, president of Portland-based Career Management Associates, a job placement, recruiting and consulting firm. “The floodgates are not open, (but) we are getting more phone calls and meetings.”

Ciullo said his business grew about 50 percent from January 2010 to January 2011.

Industries with the most demand for new workers are technology, health care and hospitals, education, and banking and finance, he said.

One company that’s adding employees is Bangor Savings Bank, which hired 23 new workers in the past year as part of a $4 million expansion into southern Maine. Bangor Savings opened three branches in the Portland area in recent months and expects to open a branch in Falmouth on April 11.

The new jobs are for branch managers and assistant managers, mortgage development officers, business banking officers and senior-level wealth management officers, said Carol Colson, spokeswoman for Bangor Savings.

Statewide, Bangor Savings has added 36 people in the past year, growing from 659 to 695 employees.

Portland-based PowerPay added 38 employees in the past year, bringing its work force to about 160, said Lisa Valentine, marketing manager for the payment processing firm.

The new jobs are in divisions including marketing, operations, account services, technical support and sales. Valentine said PowerPay plans to continue hiring in 2011.

Ciullo has seen more people who have jobs looking for opportunities at other companies, something that was largely unseen during the recession.

“People have been hesitant (to change jobs) because the market is terrible. They have been forced to stay in their jobs longer. Now, the market is starting to improve (and) we see an increase in recruiting demand,” said Ciullo.

Raymond Inglesi, president of Drake Inglesi Milardo human resource consultants in Portland, said he sees only small improvements in the job market.

“There are little signs here and there. I would not say it’s dramatic,” he said.

Barbara Babkirk, a certified career counselor who heads the consulting firm Heart at Work in Portland, said the job market appeared to pick up at the beginning of this year, but some of that momentum ebbed in recent weeks.

Babkirk said many of today’s job seekers are more impatient than those in the past.

“During the recession, people had a two- or three-year plan. They wanted to buy some time for the economy to pick up,” she said.

These days, she said, “It’s not the three-year plan, it is the six-month plan . . . I think it is coinciding with improvement in the economy.” 

Staff Writer Jonathan Hemmerdinger can be reached at 791-6316 or at:

[email protected]

 


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