Manufacturing in Maine has always been dependent upon the forests. From the lath century through much of the 19th, the staples of Maine industry were shipbuilding and lumber; today they are papermaking and wood products, but footwear, textiles and apparel, shipbuilding, and electronic components and accessories are also important items.

Maine has the largest paper-production capacity of any state in the nation. There are large paper mills and pulp mills in more than a dozen towns and cities; the top ten pulp and paper companies, in order of number of employees in 1998 include: Sappi Fine Paper North America, Bowater Great Northern Paper, Mead Paper Division, International Paper, Champion International Corporation, Fraser Paper, Inc., Georgia-Pacific Corp., Fort James Corp., Wausau-Mosinee Paper Corp., and Madison Paper Industries. Wood-related industries—paper, lumber, wood products—account for about half of the value of manufacturers shipments.

Estimated value of manufacturers' shipments in 1997 exceeded $15 billion. In 1997, Maine was the headquarters for two Fortune 500 companies: UNUM and Hannaford Bros.

Earnings of persons employed in Maine increased from $18.5 billion in 1997 to $19.6 billion in 1998, an increase of 5.9%. The largest industries in 1998 were services, 27.3% of earnings; retail trade, 12.0%; and state and local government, 11.8%. Of the industries that accounted for at least 5% of earnings in 1998, the slowest growing from 1997 to 1998 was construction (6.5% of earnings in 1998), which increased 2.6%; the fastest was finance, insurance, and real estate (6.5% of earnings in 1998), which increased 10.0%.