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.
Courtesy Smuttynose Brewing Company

Smuttynose Brewing Company will be sold at auction Friday afternoon in Hampton.

The iconic New Hampshire craft brewer announced in January that it could no longer pay its bills and needed new ownership to survive.

Some malls are struggling to survive, along with their "anchor" department stores. But Americans still want to shop: they're just doing it differently: on-line, downtown, certain big-box stores, outlet centers, and mixed-use developments.  We examine these retails trends here in New Hampshire.

We'll look at the President's new budget proposal and how it may impact Granite Staters, and discuss what the recent closure of several labor and delivery units at local hospitals means for our healthcare sector in New Hampshire. 

Julian- / Flickr Creative Commons

Some New Hampshire business owners say the Trump administration's new tax on imported solar panels will slow the growth of residential solar use in the Granite State.

The tariff starts at 30 percent and drops 5 percent in each of the next three years. It's not as severe as Trump could have imposed, and it’s meant to boost the American solar manufacturing industry.

Kandy Jaxx / Flickr

The state’s unemployment rate dipped to 2.6% in December, down a tenth of a point from the previous month.

New numbers from New Hampshire Employment Security show that the state shed nearly 2,000 jobs during December, but that was offset by a larger decline in the overall labor force.

The largest private sector  job losses were in retail trade, construction, as well as leisure and hospitality. Public sector employment decreased by 900 jobs during the month.

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

The Weekly N.H. News Roundup on The Exchange hit the road this week and recorded before a live audience at The Barley House in Concord. The show airs at 9 a.m. and 7 p.m Friday.

Click here to see photos from the event

Host Peter Biello also fielded questions from the audience, including two about marijuana legislation.

GouldHillFarm.com

A proposal to make it easier for New Hampshire farms to host things like weddings and larger-scale events will be up for consideration by state lawmakers in January.

The issue has come up repeatedly in recent years, both in the state legislature and in court cases.

Local regulations on what's known as 'agritourism' — events that bring visitors onto farm property — vary significantly from town-to-town.

Henniker Christmas tree farmer Stephen Forster, for example, has been fighting with officials in his town for years to host weddings on his property.

AP

New Hampshire's congressional delegation is urging the state attorney general to join other states suing the Federal Communications Commission for repealing "net neutrality" rules.

Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan, and Reps. Annie Kuster and Carol Shea-Porter wrote to Republican Gov. Chris Sununu and Attorney General Gordon MacDonald on Friday. It came a day after the Republican-controlled FCC voted to scrap an Obama-era rule that guaranteed equal access to the internet.

Annie Ropeik / NHPR

  The state won't make a final decision on the Northern Pass project until late February – but Eversource is already recruiting a workforce to build the transmission line if it's approved.

At least 100 residents and business owners from around New England braved snowy roads for a job fair in the White Mountains Wednesday.

Liberty Mutual has announced it is cutting about 620 positions in New Hampshire.

Foster's Daily Democrat reports the insurance company announced the decision earlier this week. Liberty Mutual says many workers affected by the shift will either be retrained or transferred to different departments. The company didn't say how many employees in the Dover and Portsmouth campuses will be affected.

Peter Biello/NHPR

  House Speaker Shawn Jasper spent some time this afternoon in his office on the third floor of the Statehouse filling a box with stuff. All Things Considered host Peter Biello caught up with Jasper as he packed up.

NHPR: What's in the box? What are you taking home?

Jasper: Papers. Cards. You know, a Gavel in there. Just a lot of personal stuff that I'm taking home that I'll sort through later. 

With the holiday season upon us, we look at the outlook for N.H. retailers, as some venture into online sales; meanwhile there's also something of a retail reversal underway -- as some mega online companies go brick-and-mortar. Also, as consumer debt reaches new highs, some worry another borrowing bubble could be in the cards. And: Is the Granite State economy going strong or getting weaker?


Todd Bookman/NHPR

The burned out shell of Lemay and Sons’ slaughtering facility still sits untouched, the charred studs visible like a rack of overcooked ribs.

On October 6th, a fire ripped through the main production building of this family-run business, where locally raised cows and pigs have been turned into beef and bacon since 1963. No one was hurt in the fire, and no cause has yet been determined.

Rick Lemay, youngest of six and current operator of the business, says since the fire, he’s felt and seen an unexpected outpouring of support from the community.

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

In a scenario that was reminiscent of his earlier rise as Speaker of the House, Republican Shawn Jasper narrowly squeaked through as New Hampshire’s new agriculture commissioner — thanks to support from the opposite party.

When Jasper was elected Speaker in 2014, House Democrats joined with a handful of Republicans to secure his nomination. On Wednesday, the Executive Council's two Democrats also joined with one Republican to confirm Jasper as agriculture commissioner.

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A New Hampshire company that makes gear for firefighters has announced it's giving away complete new sets to volunteer fire departments in other states. 

Globe Manufacturing Company is headquartered in Pittsfield. It has a plant there that makes turnout gear, the heavy coats and pants that protect firefighters. 

N.H. Businesses Step Up to Help Tackle State's Drug Crisis

Nov 16, 2017
Paige Sutherland/NHPR

Addressing the state’s drug crisis has been an all hands on deck approach from the medical community, law enforcement to social workers.

But advocates are saying one missing player in all this – has been employers. And how they can be a part of the solution. Whether that’s offering jobs to those in recovery or simply changing how addiction is addressed and talked about at work.

Todd Bookman/NHPR

President Donald Trump was elected last year with a promise to put America first: to renegotiate or possibly scrap trade deals he argues aren’t benefiting the United States.

In northern New Hampshire, where the state bumps against the Canadian border, those policies are now playing out in the lumber industry, leaving loggers and sawmills on both sides of the border adjusting to a new economic landscape.

Todd Bookman/NHPR

Local economies don’t turn on a dime. When a factory town loses its factories, and workers lose their jobs, it can take decades for a community to get back on its feet.

That’s been the reality in places like Berlin and Gorham: two former paper mill towns in the North Country now trying to reinvent themselves.

Businesses, officials and residents are hoping that ATV tourism can provide a much-needed financial boost. 

John F. Williams; Wikimedia Commons

Manufacturing jobs require more training in technology, mathematics, and problem-solving, and schools and businesses seek ways to retrain workers and prepare the incoming workforce. 

GUESTS:

There may be inertia among some New Hampshire employers when it comes to hiring people with disabilities.

Andrew Houtenville is director of research at the Institute on Disability at UNH. He spoke on NHPR's The Exchange about the challenges those with disabilities face when searching for work.

“I think there’s a lot of inertia,” he says, in terms of employers reaching out to new networks.

The labor market may magnify the issue. New Hampshire's employment rate is one of the lowest in the nation, at 2.7 percent.

A recent nationwide survey of supervisors finds that many businesses are not taking full advantage of resources available to train and employ those with disabilities. We'll look at the results of this survey, employment trends for adults with disabilities both nationally and in New Hampshire, and how employers can (and why they should) take advantage of this workforce. 


Todd Bookman/NHPR

Commuter rail fans in New Hampshire received some good news recently. A private train company is offering to connect Nashua and Bedford to Lowell, Mass., with the promise that the towns won’t be on the hook beyond the costs of maintaining a station. If you’ve been following commuter rail issues in New Hampshire for the past two decades, this funding scenario may jog some memories.

Allegra Boverman

The Speaker of the New Hampshire House is looking to put down his gavel to lead the state’s agriculture department.  Although it may be an unusual career move, Speaker Shawn Jasper says he’s been eyeing the commissioner's job for a while. 

Jasper grew up in a family of poultry farmers. His grandfather and father bred chickens for nearly 75 years in Hudson - producing more than 160 million eggs. 

Jasper says he’s continued to keep up on agriculture issues over the years through the legislature and as a nearly 30-year advisor to UNH's agriculture fraternity.

Boston commuter cities like Nashua are jumping on the chance to develop a private passenger rail, after years of unsuccessful campaigning for a public rail system. New Hampshire's zoning ordinances and city planning processes are drawing criticism for their contribution to the current over-priced housing market. And millennials get their own commission to help the state appeal to a younger population. 


Allegra Boverman for NHPR

An economist says New Hampshire state revenues are showing signs of leveling off.

Greg Bird of the New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies says there's been a marked slowdown in the growth rates of four state taxes: business profits, business enterprise, meals and rentals and real estate transfers.

He says the other 15 revenue streams that feed the state's General and Education funds have remained static for the past 2 1/2 years.

Allegra Boverman/NHPR/Stay Work Play

Scott Crowder made sure to give a shout-out to his parents for instilling in him, as he puts it, “the inability to work for somebody else.”

They were fitting remarks for the person honored as New Hampshire's 2017 Young Entrepreneur of the Year.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’ political donations are not all tethered to one party. This holds true in New Hampshire, which plans to submit an underdog bid for the online retailer’s second headquarters.

The Amazon PAC has contributed to a Sununu -- former U.S. Sen. John E. Sununu, the governor’s brother. The PAC gave $2,000 to the former Senator in the 2008 campaign. It donated $1,000 in 2004 to the Daniel Webster PAC, the senator's leadership PAC at the time.

Other Amazon PAC donations, according to Federal Election Commission finance reports, include:

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