Where do most Mainers work? Are we still a state of paper-makers? Fishermen? Boat builders?

Has tourism become our biggest employer? Are all the jobs in hi-tech fields now?

The Maine Department of Labor set out to answer those questions for a recent report that looks at our workforce as of 2012 and projects what it will look like in 2022. Some of the answers are surprising.

Our biggest employment sector is not in the forest or on the sea or catering to tourists. It’s health care and social assistance, which employed 17 percent of Mainers in 2012. A very close second is government work, at the federal, state and local levels including schools, which also rounded out to 17 percent.

The size of the public sector is often maligned by people who think taxes are a drag on economic growth, but the people who have these jobs are paying taxes, rent and mortgages as well as buying clothes and groceries, and the state would be hurt badly if those jobs were to disappear.

Next on the list at 14 percent is retail, then leisure and hospitality at 10 percent. Manufacturing is in sixth place, employing only 8 percent of workers.

Looking ahead, the only sector that is expected to add a significant number of jobs by 2022 is health care, with modest gains in three other categories and declines in all the rest. Maine’s workforce is expected to shrink over the next decade, as more baby boomers reach retirement age, even the postponed retirements that are becoming more common.

Projections like these should help steer public policy, so the next few years are as successful as they can be.

One thing they show is that even in an aging state with flat population growth, there will be opportunities as people leave the workforce. Those opportunities will likely be in health care and various levels of government. They are jobs that pay well, but require high levels of education.

Now is not a good time to be cutting back on our university system. We are more likely to build tomorrow’s economy by helping young people upgrade their skills than we would be by offering tax breaks or other concessions to out-of-state manufacturing plants to move to Maine.

And we have to recognize that preparing the people who were born here to take the place of retiring workers will not be enough. State economic development strategy should be aimed more at attracting individual employees with the skills we need, than attracting potential employers.

Education and in-migration are what’s needed to prepare Maine for the next decade. That work should start right now.