New Hampshire Economy

The Past

Historically New Hampshire, like much of New England, depended heavily on paper and grain mills to support its economy.  With the decline of mill work throughout the 20th century, the state came to lean on traditional manufacturing as an economic driver.  And although manufacturing is still an important part of New Hampshire’s economy, advances in technology and the decline of traditional fabrication work all over the country means factories employ far fewer people than in the past.  Toward the end of the 20th century, Massachusetts became a center for high-tech sectors. And in turn, New Hampshire has been able to piggy-back off its neighbor’s success, moving its economy toward electronic component manufacturing and other high-tech industries.

Despite these historic challenges, compared to the rest of the country overall, New Hampshire’s economy is still considered robust.

But talking about New Hampshire’s economy as a whole is tricky business.  That’s in part because the state’s culturally–and often economically–distinguished by its regions.  So while tourism is central to the Lakes Region economy, it’s less prominent in the Merrimack Valley.  And although high-tech work is integral to the Seacoast and Upper Valley economies, it’s much less a factor in the North Country.  But keeping regional differences in mind, some overarching statewide trends do emerge.

The Present

At this point, a few industries act as main drivers for the state’s economy:

  • Smart Manufacturing/High Technology (SMHT): SMHT is the largest and most important sector of the state’s economy.  New Hampshire’s SMHT sector is mainly known for using high-tech equipment to produce electronic components. 
  • Tourism: New Hampshire has traditionally depended on its natural resources and recreational opportunities to draw in out-of-state visitors throughout the year.  The Seacoast, Lakes Region, and White Mountains are the primary tourism hotspots. 
  • Health Care Fields: The Seacoast is a major hub for biomedical research in New Hampshire.  And thanks to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, the Upper Valley has become another center for biotech and other medical research.  The state also hosts ten major hospitals, in addition to smaller facilities, that employ a number of health care workers.

The Future

Looking to the future, economists say a number of issues could affect the state’s economy, including:

  • Demographic Change: One-in-three residents is a Baby Boomer.  As they retire, they’ll move into Medicare and Medicaid, which could place a further financial strain on medical facilities that currently count on higher revenue from private insurers.
  • Health Care Costs: This issue is closely tied to demographic change.  New Hampshire is second in the nation for the portion of private sector employees with health insurance.  But as these workers retire, they’ll move into entitlement programs, which could force providers to shift the cost of care to private insurance programs–and, by extension, to businesses.
  • Education Funding: New Hampshire operates one of the lowest-funded–and most expensive–state university systems in the country.  Many young residents find it cheaper to simply study out-of-state.  And many of the state’s young people also choose to live elsewhere.  The decline of a homegrown, educated workforce could hurt New Hampshire’s tax base and overall economy.
  • Energy Costs: The state has some of the highest per-unit energy costs in the country.  This overhead cost can be a barrier for manufacturers and other businesses that use lots of power setting up or expanding in New Hampshire.
Sarah Gibson for NHPR

Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren drew a stark ideological contrast between herself and political rivals on Thursday in a speech on her economic plans at the New Hampshire Institute of Politics.

Ken Teegarden via Flickr CC

Despite fears that a 2018 Supreme Court decision would open the floodgates on sales tax collection requests from New Hampshire businesses, a report from the N.H. Department of Justice shows that through October 31, not a single tax authority has filed the necessary notification to collect a tax.

The Federal Reserve cuts interest rates again, amid concern about U.S. manufacturing health.  A new state housing task force releases its recommendations, to expand the supply of lower-priced options.  And as winter approaches, seasonal businesses are on the hunt for temporary workers.

Original air date: Wednesday, November 6, 2019. 

Sarah Gibson for NHPR

 

Governor Sununu signed a bill on Wednesday aimed at supporting New Hampshire's struggling dairy industry. 

 

The law establishes the Dairy Premium Fund, a New Hampshire-specific logo for dairy products to be sold at a premium in grocery stores and increase revenue for participating farmers.

 


Mic Wernej via Flickr CC

A new law enacted on Monday approved The New Hampshire College Graduate Retention Incentive Partnership, a program designed to encourage recent college graduates to stay in the state after they receive their degrees. 

 

According to a survey of nearly 1,500 UNH graduates in the Class of 2018, nearly half had decided to leave New Hampshire after college for work.

Via Glassdoor

Numerous employees were laid off today today at Oracle + Dyn in Manchester, one of the Millyard's biggest employers.

Oracle has been conducting layoffs worldwide since March.

In a statement, Manchester Mayor Joyce Craig called Oracle's decision to lay off a significant number of employees in Manchester quote "upsetting and disappointing."

It is currently unknown how many workers received layoff notices.

Via Atlas PyroVision's Facebook page

President Trump has said that an increase in tariffs on Chinese goods would boost manufacturing and bring jobs back to the United States.

Stephen Pelkey, CEO of Jaffrey's Atlas PyroVision Entertainment Group in Jaffrey, says that for industries like his, this is not easy to do. Atlas is the largest fireworks company in New England.

Hundreds of business are in D.C. opposing tariffs this week, so how will trade discussions with China and Mexico, among other places, impact New Hampshire?  Also, we have a preview of the state's lucrative summer tourism season, and discuss what the Federal Reserve might do with interest rates. 

Sarah Gibson for NHPR

Massachusetts senator and presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren visited voters in Windham and Manchester, New Hampshire on Friday to pitch a plan she says will fight the influence of big corporations and rebuild the middle class.

Farmers Mkt Produce
USDA

The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently published a census report on New Hampshire’s farming industry. The data shows that New Hampshire farms are becoming smaller and more profitable.

 

The USDA report, which is done every five years, shares numbers from 2017.

 

Some key findings:

Ellen Grimm / NH Public Radio

Our In-Depth series on New Hampshire's workforce shortage continues with: untapped workers. We ask: what groups of potential employees are being overlooked?  These might include recent immigrants, people with criminal records, people with disabilities, and older workers. 

       

We continue our series on New Hampshire's labor shortage.  Skilled labor, manufacturing, and healthcare are three sectors facing serious workforce shortages. We look at the specific challenges for these industries and others, the types of jobs they are struggling to fill, and the efforts they are making to recruit employees.

Ali Oshinskie

On the first day of our series of In Depth: Workforce Challenges in New Hampshire, we explain the numbers and how we got here: why is unemployment so low, how much of this is part of a larger national trend, what are the economic forces leading to low unemployment and high demand for workers, and where in our state is this most felt?

Ali Oshinskie

The Exchange is spending four days discussing the workforce challenges in the state, starting Monday, May 20th. Read on for information about each show, and to find links to each program. 

The Exchange, New Hampshire Public Radio’s daily news talk show, will explore how New Hampshire’s workforce shortage impacts the economic and social fabric of life in the state, with a special broadcast series beginning Monday, May 20.

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

 

State spending on job training would triple to $6 million under a bill given preliminary approval by the New Hampshire House.

The job training bill would add $4 million to an existing fund using money that would otherwise go to the state's trust fund for unemployment benefits.

Britta Greene / New Hampshire Public Radio

Five New Hampshire non-profits have been named as recipients of nearly $1 million in state funding aimed at expanding addiction resources in workplaces across the state.

The non-profits will use the funds, distributed by the Community Development Finance Authority, to run trainings for local business leaders and employees.

U.S. Air Force

The Exchange is working on a series of shows about workforce shortages in New Hampshire. New Hampshire boasts one of the nation’s lowest unemployment rates, but the state is also facing a serious workforce shortage.

The Exchange will spend several shows exploring how we got here, the sectors and regions most affected, and discussing possible solutions.

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

The House considered a measure Wednesday to provide a financial incentive for recent college grads to stay in New Hampshire.

 

This bill would create a voluntary program: Employees would get a minimum of $1,000 a year for the first four years they stay in the state. That would be paid for by their employer, not the taxpayer. But companies that participate would be able to work with a network of colleges in the state to attract recent grads.

 

Dan Tuohy / NHPR

The New Hampshire Senate has voted to prohibit businesses from asking prospective workers about their criminal records on job applications. The bill's backers say it will help workers and might help companies fill open jobs.

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

New Hampshire's rental market remains tight, and shortages of affordable housing have widespread impacts on the state's economy. We discuss housing issues, and take a look at business-related legislation at the Statehouse, including business tax cuts and a capital gains tax. 

This show airs live at 9 a.m. on Tuesday, March 11, and again at 7 p.m.

Elaine Grant, NHPR

A little over a year ago, former Speaker of the N.H. House Shawn Jasper traded in his Speaker’s gavel  for the job of Commissioner of the N.H. Department of Agriculture, Markets, and Food.

Jasper suggested on The Exchange this week that he doesn’t miss the tussle of Statehouse politics -- dealing with 399 lawmakers, constant deadlines, and the scheduling of bills.

When it comes to his new job, Jasper said, “There are still issues here, of course, but I feel I’m able to help people a lot more directly." 

Jasper also outlined what he feels his department can and cannot do when it comes to resolving disputes over agritourism and advising farmers with concerns about the effects of climate change.  On the latter, Jasper said: "That is more UNH Cooperative Extension's role. That’s not something we’re able to do."

Sarah Gibson for NHPR

More than 5,000 visitors and dozens of farm animals are descending on the Double Tree Hotel in downtown Manchester for this weekend's New Hampshire Farm and Forest Expo.

The annual event features workshops and trade booths on the state’s farming and forestry industry, as well as kid-friendly booths with farm animals and craft demonstrations.

Gesturing toward a crowd gazing at goats, organizer and state forester A.J. Dupere says visitors come from a mix of backgrounds.

Annie Ropeik / NHPR

Factories in New Hampshire pay more for energy than they would in almost any other state. There are steps they can take to reduce their costs – but those changes can be expensive, and they could even require policy reform.

Still, some businesses are making investments and getting creative to try and save on energy.

Sarah Plourde

 

For the 13th year in a row, Manchester-Boston Regional Airport is reporting a decline in passengers.

 

2018 saw around 123,000 fewer passengers - a 6.2 percent decrease - flying in or out of the airport, compared to 2017.

Much of that loss is attributed to a 10.4 percent decrease in passengers on the airport's largest carrier, Southwest Airlines.

 

Scott McPherson

Thousands of  federal employees in the Granite State are furloughed, some working without pay. At the same time, certain government programs and private contracts aren't being fulfilled, with effects on the private sector and the general public. 

In 2019, we make a tentative forecast of the economic trends to watch in the new year. From continued affordable housing challenges in New Hampshire, to tariffs and stock market fluctuations internationally, we look at what indicators you should keep an eye on. 


Taylor Caswell, Commissioner of the Department of Business and Economic Affairs joins us. The state's economy is looking robust with unemployment the lowest in the region. But there's also a labor shortage, workforce development challenges, and high energy costs for businesses. We get Caswell's take on these issues -- and on what senate Democrats are proposing: freezing business tax cuts.

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