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Census: 1 in 5 Granite Staters head elsewhere for a paycheck

October 14. 2017 11:13PM
Andrew MacLeod of Manchester hugs his daughters, Viva, 5, and Moxie, 6, goodbye as he catches a bus to Logan before flying out to Austin, Texas, for business on Thursday. Also pictured is his wife, Felicia Lee. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

Andrew MacLeod calls himself "a road dog."

The Manchester musician hugged his family outside a bus station in Londonderry on Thursday before flying out of Boston to play at a music festival in Austin, Texas.

"I'm always on the road," MacLeod said by phone from Austin on Friday. He spent two weeks touring in Australia recently and will hit Japan in the coming weeks.

The fortysomething guitarist for singer-songwriter Valerie June may be an extreme example, but he is among more than 126,000 Granite Staters who commute out of state for a job, according to newly released U.S. Census data.

That translates into one in five New Hampshire residents getting a paycheck from an employer outside of New Hampshire.

Granite Staters drew paychecks from employers from 49 states (sorry, Wyoming) based on the Census Bureau's crunching of state and federal data. That includes 75 with business in Alaska and 35 in Hawaii.

Nearly 100,000 Granite Staters head to Massachusetts, a number that's grown from nearly 75,000 in 1990.

Commuting patterns can affect drive times, family activities, transportation infrastructure and home prices.

Several years ago, Londonderry pushed back the start of its weekday trick-or-treating from 5 to 6 p.m.

"We heard a lot of complaints from parents," said Town Manager Kevin Smith. "Not home by 5 o'clock or just getting home."

Commuting goes in both directions, signaling a broader regional economy.

Census figures showed 126,344 people left the state in 2015 while another 84,698 out-of-staters came to New Hampshire to work, a spread of 41,646.

For the period 2006-10, the state saw an average of 106,338 residents leaving the state and 65,486 out-of-staters entering, a difference of 40,852.

The more recent numbers showed more Maine and Vermont residents came to New Hampshire to work than the reverse. More than 42,000 Bay State residents traveled to New Hampshire, but nearly 99,000 Granite Staters went the other way.

Dover economist Brian Gottlob said people shouldn't consider the numbers negatively.

"New Hampshire should look more at the region as a labor pool full of talent that can be tapped by New Hampshire companies and that makes the state more attractive rather than as something that draws labor and talent away from New Hampshire, which is how I think too many in the state view the regional economy," Gottlob said.

Taylor Caswell, commissioner of the state's Department of Business and Economic Affairs, cited the commuter figures during an energy summit in Concord last week. Those numbers included 118,605 who leave the state for their primary job, rather than any job.

"In a lot of ways, you are looking at a workforce that is regional in nature," Caswell said. "You may not notice but every day, every weekday, 120,000 residents of the state of New Hampshire leave New Hampshire to work in another state. Now, there are a number that come this way, but that's a very big number, that's a pretty substantial percentage of our entire working population."

Caswell said his department when looking to retain or recruit new companies here can show there is a "tech worker base that basically expands from Boston to Concord and Laconia that is increasingly able to meet the needs of companies that want to come to New Hampshire."

Realtor Bill Weidacher, a partner at Keller Williams Realty Metropolitan in Bedford, said he mentions to Massachusetts clients that bus service to Boston is convenient from park-and-ride areas in Londonderry and Salem along I-93.

"They don't necessarily need to be close to the highway if their drive time in total is within their limit (of tolerance)," he said.

Massachusetts buyers are coming for two reasons: quality of life and ease of commute, he said.

The average commute times in Rockingham County to work have grown by four minutes from 1990 to 29.5 minutes in 2010. Hillsborough County saw a gain of 4.6 minutes to 27.1 minutes, according to Gottlob.

That may not sound like much, but it works out to at least an extra 20 minutes a week on the road.

Ongoing construction to rebuild and expand Interstate 93 in southern New Hampshire is an effort to help curb congestion.

"Interstate 93, as originally constructed in the early 1960s, was expected to carry 20,000 vehicles per day within its design life of 20 years," said Bill Boynton, spokesman for the state Department of Transportation. "In 1997, Interstate 93 between Salem and Manchester was a four-lane highway with average traffic volumes of 100,000 vehicles per day along portions of the corridor."

Once four lanes open in each direction, the highway will be capable of carrying 175,000 vehicles per day, he said.

"This new configuration was intended to provide additional capacity to reduce congestion, increase safety, and support economic development along the corridor in the years to come," Boynton said.

The Manchester-Boston Regional Airport found 47 percent of its passengers fly for business, according to spokesman Tom Malafronte. About a third of its passengers are from New Hampshire with 52 percent originating from outside of New England.

MacLeod, a father of two, said anytime he has to rehearse, he needs to travel to New York City, sometimes by bus.

"It's insane there's not some kind of commuter rail system that runs from New Hampshire to Boston" along I-93, MacLeod said.

Smith knows the congestion on the roads firsthand.

"The traffic is already building up on to (Route) 102 by 6 o'clock," Smith said.

Smith said his father, who retired two years ago, hit the road early for his commute from Londonderry to Boston.

"He had to leave at 4:30 just to get down there in 45 minutes or otherwise it could be a two-hour commute," Smith said.

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