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Nursing homes lag as Maine labor market bounces back from pandemic

Virus Outbreak Maine
Robert F. Bukaty
Customers dine on the sidewalk outside Portland Pie, Monday, June 15, 2020, in Brunswick, Maine.

Maine's labor market has almost fully recovered after seeing a sharp loss of 95,000 jobs in the early days of the pandemic — a loss documented in a new report from the state Department of Labor.

Glenn Mills of the state Department of Labor says most sectors have jobs levels similar to 2019 or even higher. But participation in the workforce is lagging.

Mills says some people left the job market because of child care issues, while others decided to retire.

"That is felt even for employers who typically hire younger people because those younger people are now having opportunities open to them. So it's just really creating a more competitive environment. And this will take some time to play out," Mills says.

While sectors such as construction, manufacturing, and hospitality have experienced the strongest recoveries, Mills says other sectors are lagging — especially nursing home care.

"In a situation where wages in hospitality have been up significantly, that was really a challenge for nursing care facilities because they're pretty limited on what they're able to pay because of Medicare reimbursement rates, so to some extent they're being outbid by restaurants and others for their staffing," Mills says.