Down East 2013 ©
True or false: There are more lawyers in Maine than lobstermen.
How you answer that question might depend on where you live. If your house overlooks the ocean or you have neighbors who pile traps in their yard, you might assume that lobstering is one of the state’s largest employment sectors. If, on the other hand, you commute from a subdivision to an air-conditioned office, teleconference with co-workers in Chattanooga, and do all your shopping at Sam’s Club or Trader Joe’s, then you might assume commercial fishing is a cottage industry the state plays up for the benefit of its summer tourists.
Myths have a way of dying hard, especially when people are invested in promoting them. In this special issue of Down East, we decided to challenge our own assumptions about how Mainers make a living in 2013. Where are the jobs today? Probably not where you think.
For example, it might not come as a surprise that the Education and Healthcare sector (an unwieldy designation lumped together by the Department of Labor) dwarfs all other categories. Encompassing everything from doctors and physical therapists to college coaches and school librarians, it supports a third of all jobs in the state. But you might find it shocking to learn that Natural Resources — a segment that includes the archetypal Maine industries of logging, fishing, and farming — doesn’t even crack the top ten. On a brighter note, news of the death of the Manufacturing sector in Maine (home to 55,285 jobs) seems premature indeed.
In thinking about how best to characterize Maine at work in 2013, we chose to profile eleven individuals who represent interesting aspects of life in the state. These portraits aren’t meant to be comprehensive, but we do hope they suggest larger forces — and cultural conversations — driving our economy.
So what about lawyers and lobstermen? The American Bar Association counts 3,865 “active and resident” attorneys in Maine (so lawyers who no longer practice are not included). By contrast, the Maine Lobstermen’s Association (MLA) lists only 1,200 members. That sounds like a blowout, right? However, the MLA doesn’t represent everyone hauling traps. According to the Bangor Daily News, Maine has about 4,600 licensed lobstermen.
If you guessed that lobstermen still outnumber lawyers in Maine, you are correct. But if you think the situation is likely to reverse itself in the next decade, as the state continues to urbanize and commercial fishing faces new challenges from a changing environment, it sounds like that would be a safe bet, too.