N.H. Economic News Roundup: Year-end Review And A Look to 2017
Year-end reports show positive trends: from very low unemployment to the addition of 17,000 jobs in 2016. However, rental prices continue to rise, and while the Granite State has plenty of jobs, it badly needs people to fill them.
Highlights from the conversation:
When asked about the current economic status of the nation, Russ Thibeault, President of Applied Economic Research, says there is a lot of confidence in the health of the economy.
There's just a blizzard of big numbers out there this time of year, it's kind of seasonally appropriate...GDP was up over three percent which was the best in a couple of years. The U.S. added 178,000 jobs month over month...unemployment is 4.6 percent, which is considered full employment.
The Fed raised interest rates last week, and Thibeault says this is a sign that the economy is doing well.
I think the basic feeling was that the economy is strong enough now to handle it without tipping into a recession...but more interestingly, maybe, they're talking about three more bumps in the year coming.
Jeff Feingold, editor of New Hampshire Business Review, says that though the Fed seems confident, and statistics look promising, people still don't feel great about the economy at the local level.
I see this in New Hampshire and I see it nationally: the unemployment rate is very low, but it just seems like it doesn't feel like it's 4.7 or 4.8 percent nationally or even 2.7 percent in New Hampshire, even though we know there's a great demand for workers. [This might be] because you just don't get the feeling that everybody is swept up in this economic blizzard...it just doesn't seem to be equitable.
He adds that this feeling of inequality was reflected in the election, when jobs and the economy were big concerns for voters.
Steve Norton, executive director at the New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies, agrees.
People are as confident as they've been since well before the Great Recession. Now, there are still people obviously struggling. 23 percent believe that there are going to be difficult financial times in the next year, but that leaves 3/4 of folks that believe that things are going to be mixed, stable, or better. So I think what we're experiencing is that we've had five or six years of tepid growth, we have one year of really strong growth, and we'll see...next year ask me about business confidence. If we see a strong year, perhaps people will start feeling a little but better.
All three experts agree that New Hampshire needs to bring more workers into the state to fill vacancies. Feingold mentioned coverage of the immigrant workforce by Emily Corwin. Read her story, "Business Leaders Say Immigration Can Stem New England's Workforce Shortages."