Forbes names Portland ‘No. 1 Best City’ for Jobs this spring

Mainers may think Forbes has it out for Maine. After all, the magazine has branded Maine the worst place to do business three years running.

But that doesn’t seem to be the case.

On Tuesday, Forbes named Portland’s metro area the #1 Best City for Jobs this Spring, citing a “net employment outlook” of 23 percent. (I’ll get to what “net employment outlook” means in a minute.) Portland actually shared the top spot with San Jose’s metro area, including Silicon Valley, which also posted a 23 percent “net employment outlook.”

Chris Hall, the newly minted CEO of the Portland Regional Chamber, told Forbes that he was “very pleasantly surprised” by the ranking, “and happy to see that the momentum we feel here in the Portland region is justified by the numbers.”

But what do the rankings really mean, and what is the “net employment outlook”?

Turns out the rankings are not actually based on any analysis by Forbes. They’re actually based on survey results released today by Manpower Inc., a Milwaukee-based employment services company.

Each quarter, Manpower conducts what it calls its Employment Outlook Survey, which asks employers about their intentions to increase or decrease the number of employees in their workforces during the next quarter.

Portland’s results were encouraging.

In the second quarter, from April to June, 27 percent of employers in the Portland-South Portland-Biddeford Metropolitan Service Area, a federal designation that actually consists of York, Cumberland and Sagadahoc counties, plan to hire more employees, while 4 percent expect to reduce their workforce, according to the survey results. In addition, 66 percent expect to maintain their current staff levels and 3 percent are not certain of their hiring plans.

It’s the difference between the percentage of employers planning to hire more people (27 percent) and the percentage of those expected to make layoffs (4 percent) that Manpower calls its “net employment outlook.”

That’s a significant increase compared to the “net employment outlook” of -2 percent that Portland’s metro area recorded during the first quarter of 2013.

It’s also a stronger outlook than was recorded in the second quarter of 2012, when the city’s “net employment outlook” was 19 percent.

Unfortunately, Manpower did not survey Maine employers outside the Portland metro area.

One big caveat: I couldn’t find an answer Tuesday afternoon to the question of how many employers Manpower surveyed in the Portland metro area. If it’s a small sample size, then this “net employment outlook” is a rather useless figure.

Nationally, Manpower claims it surveyed 18,000 employers that yielded a 11 percent “net employment outlook.”

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Whit Richardson

About Whit Richardson

Whit Richardson is Business Editor at the Bangor Daily News. He blogs about Maine business, entrepreneurs and the economy.