PORTLAND, Maine — Looking across New England, Maine is a relative oasis for call centers.
Penobscot County hires call center employees at about 2.5 times the rate of the average U.S. county, in relation to other types of jobs. In Androscoggin County, that rate is more than seven times the national share.
Those numbers and proximity to Boston headquarters are two reasons the online retail giant Wayfair announced last week it has picked Bangor and Brunswick for customer service center expansions. Federal data from employers in 2014 show there are likely other reasons, too.
The Boston-based company hasn’t disclosed just when it expects to reach its full employment figures of 500 for Brunswick and 450 in Bangor, and it has simultaneous expansions in mind elsewhere. The company Monday announced it would hire another 450 people at a new customer service center in Bryan, Texas.
In Maine, Wayfair also has a readymade call center building in Bangor and plenty of space in Brunswick, under renovation for a summer move-in at the former Navy base.
Wayfair officials declined to state an average wage for its Maine facilities, but the amount it will have to pay to compete with other employers is likely another attraction.
Jane Carpenter, a spokeswoman for Wayfair, said Monday during the Bangor city council’s consideration of a lease for a city-owned building that the company is “assessing the market” to determine what those wages will be.
The pay scale and relative density of call center employees is a common thread with the Utah counties, where the company already has contact or call centers, handling phone and email inquiries from customers.
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Maine has another thing in common with those areas in Utah: how attractive call center pay is compared to other jobs in Penobscot County.
Across states in the Northeast, Penobscot County hits a sweet spot. It has a relative abundance of call center jobs, along with Kennebec and Androscoggin counties, and wages are lower than the national and Northeast averages while still being competitive with other jobs locally.
In relation to all other local jobs, call center pay looked as good in Penobscot County as in the average U.S. county.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics represents that comparison in what’s called a ” location quotient.” That calculation compares one industry to all others, both at the state and national levels, for pay, employment or other measures.
It illustrates the difference in those state and national numbers, with a result higher than one meaning the raw pay looks more attractive in that area than most counties. A result lower than one means — in this case — that call center pay is less attractive relative to other jobs than in the average county. The measures don’t account for the purchasing power of that wage.
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By comparison, call center work in Cumberland County looks quite better than in the average county, with a location quotient of about 1.8 and an average annual wage of about $53,500.
But for Wayfair’s latest move, that might not be the whole story, depending on the exact type of worker they’re seeking for the customer service and sales center in the northern Cumberland County town of Brunswick.
Yearly pay at home furnishing stores in Cumberland County are slightly less competitive with other jobs than in the average U.S. county, with a location quotient of 0.96 in 2014, and average yearly pay of $24,829.
Brunswick’s proximity to Sagadahoc, Androscoggin and Lincoln counties means the Wayfair facility at the former Navy base, which employed hundreds of civilian residents of those counties, also will likely draw workers from them.