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January 23. 2013 10:57PM

State's economy lagging in post-recession growth, forum told


Ross Gittell, chancellor of the Community College System of New Hampshire, shares his insight on the economy at the annual Economic Forecast 2013 Breakfast Forum at the Exeter Inn Wednesday morning. (JASON SCHREIBER PHOTO)
EXETER - New Hampshire is expected to continue its slow economic recovery in 2013 with about a 1 percent growth in employment, an economic forecaster told local business leaders.

Dr. Ross Gittell, chancellor of the Community College System of New Hampshire, painted a picture of the year ahead at the 12th annual Economic Forecast 2013 Breakfast Forum at the Exeter Inn Wednesday morning.

The event was organized by the Exeter Area Chamber of Commerce.

Gittell said that while the economy is improving, it's still not strong, and for New Hampshire, the recovery has been much slower than in previous recessions.

"Until we see some significant employment, we're not going to see a stronger New Hampshire outlook," Gittell told the crowd of about 70, many from the local business community.

New Hampshire is recovering slower than the national average, which is unusual, Gittell said.

With the state's unemployment rate now at 5.7 percent and the national rate at 7 percent, Gittell said he expects to see about a 1 percent job growth in New Hampshire this year, which is just below the forecast for the national average.

Employment growth in New Hampshire isn't expected to reach 2 percent until 2015, he said.

The sectors expected to see the biggest job growth in the state are professional and business services and leisure and hospitality, he said.

The construction industry is also expected to pick up, while slower growth will be seen in government and the health industry, he said. Gittell also predicted the housing market will continue to improve this year.

"That will provide the seed for a stronger economic recovery into the next year," he said.

One problem Gittell sees in terms of future job growth is a skills gap in New Hampshire.

"Something's not right as far as the skill level of the work force," he said.

Some 40 percent of college graduates available to employers don't have the necessary applied skills to meet their needs, he said, adding that nearly a third of manufacturing companies are suffering from some level of skills shortage.

He also noted that New Hampshire now ranks 45th out of 50 states in percentage of bachelors degrees in science or engineering, down from 20th a decade ago.

Gittell said that educational institutions must make sure they're teaching the skills needed to meet the demands of the employers looking to hire.

He said 46 percent of New Hampshire adults have a post-secondary degree, but 64 percent of New Hampshire jobs will require post-secondary education by 2018.

jshreiber@newstote.com