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New fiscal report outlines NH's economic improvements, shortcomings since the Great Recession

By DOUG ALDEN
New Hampshire Union Leader

April 30. 2016 6:47PM


MANCHESTER - While New Hampshire has seen significant economic recovery over the past few years and boasts an unemployment rate of 2.6 percent, there are still areas where the Granite State employment outlook could be better.

A new report from the New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute outlines what has improved since the Great Recession - and what has not.

"By several key measures, New Hampshire's economy is on the upswing," the institute said in the study released Thursday titled "State of Working in New Hampshire."

"Ultimately, though, a well-functioning economy should ensure that the workers contributing to it share in the gains they have helped to produce. From that perspective, the Granite State still has a way to go."

NHFPI noted income and wages for much of the state's workforce have yet to return to the levels before the recession years, defined in the study as the end of 2007 through mid-2009. In addition, the state has an aging workforce with a large number approaching retirement and overall expansion of less than half a percentage point from 2010-14.

"This development is significant since the labor force represents the potential pool of workers from which New Hampshire employers have to choose," the study said. "If that pool is not growing, they might struggle to find workers to meet their demand."

While the unemployment rate has fallen dramatically, the jobs that have more people back at work aren't necessarily high-quality positions that pay well. A decline in manufacturing jobs throughout the country has helped hike employment in industries that pay lower wages.

The study also looked at average pay for New Hampshire households, which increased by 2.2 percent from just over $50,000 in 2007 to $51,165 in 2014. NHFPI said those figures can be misleading and suggested the median household income was a more accurate barometer. The New Hampshire household median income for 2014 was $66,532 - a total that is split down the middle with half of Granite State households bringing in more and half making less.

"Those households and workers - and the financial anxiety they face - should be the focus of policymakers' efforts to shape the New Hampshire economy in the years ahead," NHFPI said.

The study is the latest breaking down the shifting trends in how many New Hampshire residents are working and at what jobs. The trends have been building over time, and leaders from the business world, education and local and state government have been trying to remedy, said Jim Roche, president of the Business and Industry Association of New Hampshire.

"Policy leaders are well aware of the challenges, and there are many efforts underway to address them," Roche said.

The BIA represents some of the state's largest employers, and Roche said the top concern he hears from members is finding the employees with the right skillset.

"There are many initiatives underway and many individual groups focused on the challenge," Roche said.


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