Maine’s health-care workforce continued to grow robustly during the economic slowdown, but per capita health-care costs also put Maine near the top of the nation, according to a new report released Aug. 10.

The “Workforce Analysis of Maine’s Health Services Sector” released by Labor Commissioner Laura Fortman attracted about 20 health-care providers and educators to a press conference Aug. 10.

Fortman said in 2005 the Maine Legislature enacted a law requiring an analysis of the health-care workforce be done every four years. This report is the second such analysis. Analyst Paul Leparulo wrote the 237-page document.

“This is about as comprehensive a report as has ever been put on a table about the composition of the health-care workforce in Maine,” said John Dorrer, director of the Center for Workforce Research and Information within the Department of Labor.

“This is a work in progress. We are assuming this is the beginning and not the end,” said Dorrer. “This is a very difficult landscape to negotiate. Even in an economic downturn, this is a sector that continued to add people.”

Nearly 60,000 people in Maine are employed in the health-care sector. It is the largest private sector in the state, accounting for 17 percent of private-sector jobs and 11.2 percent of the state’s gross domestic product.

Leparulo said health-care jobs in Maine have been growing at four times the average rate of job growth in the state. He said the health-care sector is expected to produce two-thirds of the new jobs in Maine through 2018.

Between 2000 and 2008, the health-care field in Maine produced about 17,500 new jobs, more than the next 10 sectors combined. Since 2000, health care has had an average annual growth rate of 2.3 percent, compared with 0.2 percent for all wage and salary jobs combined.

But costs of health care for Maine residents have also increased.

In 1991, Maine’s per capita health-care costs ranked 30th among the 50 states. By 2004, per capita health-care costs in Maine had jumped to the third highest in the country.

In 2008, dentists, psychiatrists, surgeons and pharmacists in Maine all made higher salaries than the U.S. average, while registered nurses, family and general practitioners, dental hygienists and anesthesiologists all made lower salaries than the national average.

Occupations with the strongest job growth between 2004 and 2008 were physicians and surgeons, pharmacy technicians, pharmacists, medical assistants, and radiological technologists and technicians.

According to federal statistics, Maine has a shortage of 56 dentists, 21 primary care physicians and nine mental-health practitioners to achieve target practitioner-to-population ratios.

The supply-demand ratios for psychiatrists and pharmacists in Maine were the third highest in the country.

The health-care workforce report may be viewed online at maine.gov/labor/lmis.