A comprehensive measure of Maine’s economic pulse has found the state is making progress in many areas, falling behind in a few more and treading water in some key indicators that compare it to the rest of the nation.

The Maine Economic Growth Council, a program of the Maine Development Foundation, released its “Measures of Growth 2010” report Feb. 25 at a Statehouse news conference.

The report measures progress, or decline, in 24 areas and is packed with information gleaned from state, regional and federal sources. It was written by Ed Cervone of the development foundation.

“No single indicator tells the whole story. This report looks at long-term structural issues,” said Laurie Lachance, president and CEO of the Maine Development Foundation.

“Despite coming out of the biggest recession in decades, there are bright spots in Maine’s economy,” said Sen. Seth Goodall, D-Richmond, council co-chairman.

The council found Maine’s average per capita income improved from 33rd to 30th in the nation and in 2008 it was $36,457 per person or 90.7 percent of the U.S. average. The council predicted Maine’s average per capita income would reach 25th among the states — or in the middle of the pack — by 2015. The group gave this category a gold star for special achievement.

“Increasing personal income is truly important to improving quality of life,” said council member Steve Schley, president of Pingree Associates Inc.

The other gold star awarded the state was in the category of health insurance coverage as 90.5 percent of Maine’s population was covered by health insurance in 2008, compared with 84.5 percent of the U.S. population.

In Maine, 50 percent of health insurance was employer-based; 4 percent was directly purchased by individuals; 20 percent was MaineCare; 14 percent was Medicare; 2 percent was other public forms of insurance; and 10 percent were not insured.

While the availability of health insurance was praised, the cost of health care was given a red flag for being a problem area.

According to the report, the price of medical care in New England grew 400 percent between 1984 and 2008, while Maine income grew 257 percent during the same time span.

The council handed out three other red flags.

Research and development was cited as a problem area because spending for research and development was down to 1 percent of gross domestic state product in 2006, while the goal is for research and development spending to reach 3 percent of state product by 2015.

The state’s share of spending for research and development is decreasing, the report said, and was less than U.S. spending (2.6 percent) and New England spending (4.9 percent) in 2006.

Another red flag was given to the category of higher education attainment in Maine. The goal is for the percentage of Maine residents age 25 and over with a higher education degree to increase to at least the New England average by 2020.

But in 2008, 34.4 percent of Maine residents held an associate, bachelor’s or advanced degree while 42.9 percent of New England residents and 35.2 percent of U.S. residents held higher education degrees. The council said this indicator has not changed much since 2000 and Maine is not closing the gap with New England.

The final red flag was for the cost of energy in Maine. The council’s goal, or “benchmark,” is for Maine’s cost of electricity to decrease to the U.S. average by 2015. But Maine moved away from the benchmark in 2007.

Maine’s retail price of electricity for all sectors was $42.77 per million Btu in 2007, compared with a U.S. retail price of $26.84 for the same amount of electricity. Maine’s cost of retail electricity was 59 percent higher than the U.S. price in 2007.

Areas where Maine moved toward its benchmarks included gross domestic product, new business starts, the cost of doing business, state and local tax burden, affordable housing, poverty, gender income disparity, chronic disease, conservation of lands and sustainable forest lands.

Maine’s cost of doing business, which comprises labor costs (75 percent), energy costs (15 percent) and tax burden (10 percent), improved from 3rd highest in the nation in 2001 to 8th highest nationally in 2006 and 2007. While that’s a high ranking, it’s lower than Massachusetts (No. 2), New Hampshire (No. 6) and Connecticut (No. 7). And Vermont (No. 9) and Rhode Island (No. 15) are close behind Maine.

Maine’s national tax burden (taxes as a percentage of income) ranking in 2007 was 6th highest in the nation, according to the U.S. Census, or 14th highest, according to the Tax Foundation. Taking income out of the equation, Maine’s per capita tax in 2007 ranked 14th, according to the Census, or 21st, according to the Tax Foundation.

Categories where Maine moved farther away from its desired benchmarks included multiple job holding (higher than the U.S. average), and high-speed Internet subscribers.

Areas where Maine did not move appreciably relative to its benchmarks included employment, international exports, transportation infrastructure, on-the-job injuries and population of service center communities.

“Without good measures, we can’t make good progress,” said Senate President Elizabeth “Libby” Mitchell, D-Vassalboro.

“We are in the hardest part of the legislative session,” said House Speaker Hannah Pingree, D-North Haven. “Having you bring this to us brings focus to us. I really appreciate these efforts. The red flags are frustrating. We take your work very seriously. We know you are thoughtful, hardworking and bipartisan.”

This is the 16th annual Measures of Growth report by the council. For a complete copy of the report, go to mdf.org.