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A Tale of Two New Hampshires
Published Tuesday, September 5, 2017

A recent analysis of the New Hampshire economy by the NH Center for Public Policy Studies finds that virtually all of the job gains the state’s economy has experienced over the past three years have been confined to “urban” NH, i.e. Hillsborough, Merrimack, Rockingham and Strafford counties,  while economic growth has been nonexistent in most of rural NH, including Belknap, Coos, Cheshire, Sullivan, Grafton, and Carroll counties.

According to the Center’s economist Greg Bird, “One would expect this to some degree since that is where most of our state’s population lives and where most employers are located. However, the level of economic activity that has taken place in these four counties is much higher than might be anticipated, even for their size.”

As an example, in 2013, Rockingham County comprised about 23 percent of the state’s population and labor market (jobs and wages). Yet, between 2013 and 2016, it was responsible for almost 40 percent of the state’s job gains and population increase. In addition, the report notes that three of the state’s top eight industries, in terms of job gains over the past year, are located in the health care sector, which signals how important health care is to overall economic growth.

The report cautions that if the health care industry were to experience adverse financial effects due to changes in the Affordable Care Act, this would likely ripple throughout the broader economy.

Looking to the future, there appears to be some preliminary signs that the pace of hiring is starting to wane, Bird added. “Some pieces of the puzzle from the Bureau of Labor Statistics suggest that near the end of 2016, a slowdown emerged. Whether this braking has remained into 2017 and that something more is happening is unclear and we will have to wait until September for more information,” he said.

If this slowdown is confirmed, it could be happening because the pool of available labor from which employers have to hire from has shrunk to such a low level that there are very few qualified candidates from which choose from and therefore employers are not able to hire as much as they would prefer. If so, this could potentially threaten businesses’ plans to grow, the report notes.

A copy of the report is available from the Center’s website nhpolicy.org.

For more information, contact Greg Bird, gbird@nhpolicy.org, or call office 603-226-2500; mobile 610-220-3244..

The New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies is an independent, non-profit, non-partisan organization that pursues data-driven research on public policy. Its work includes research on the state budget, public school funding and health care finance. 

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