Report: Job growth limited to urban New Hampshire counties

Economic IndicatorsAssociated Press

A new analysis of the New Hampshire economy says job growth in the state's most urban counties has been much higher than expected in recent years, while rural counties have seen virtually no economic growth.

The report by the New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies says virtually all job growth in the past three years has occurred in Hillsborough, Merrimack, Rockingham and Strafford counties.

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"One would expect this to some degree since that is where most of our state's population lives and where most employers are located," said Greg Bird, the center's economist. "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."

For example, Rockingham County alone was responsible for almost 40 percent of the state's job gains and population increases during that time. Statewide, most private-sector industries increased their workforce during the time frame studied, with the largest gains in health care, construction, restaurants and white-collar offices. Three of the top eight industries were related to health care, and the report cautions that changes in the Affordable Care Act could ripple through the broader economy.

Only 30 percent of the industries analyzed had fewer workers in 2016 compared to 2015, and most of those losses were quite small, the report said. But there were some preliminary signs that the pace of hiring has begun to wane.

"Some pieces of the puzzle from the Bureau of Labor Statistics suggest that near the end of 2016, a slowdown emerged," Bird said. "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.