NH Public Policy
New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies

Eagle Tribune: Low unemployment rate means N.H. businesses may be unable to find employees

WINDHAM — New Hampshire's low unemployment rate may actually be a negative in coming years, as officials say state has a problem attracting employees.

Approximately 140 attendees at the Greater Salem Chamber of Commerce's Economic Development Breakfast heard Thursday how the state must reprioritize and focus on marketing itself to succeed in the future.

"We're also at a time of incredible global change in the economy, and everything that we thought was going to happen has not happened... We're going to have to think differently," said New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Executive Director Steve Norton.

While the state experienced a population growth followed by a lack of jobs during the 2008 recession, forecasts show that New Hampshire is facing a potential dearth of available, trained workers.

While the Granite State continues to draw comparison to and businesses from its southern neighbor, the number of jobs available in New Hampshire is actually growing slightly faster than Massachusetts, Norton said. But, it also has the lowest unemployment rate in the country, which means employers across all industries can have problems finding employees, he added.

"We have one big problem, and the governor talked about it: The unemployment rate. We will run out of people to support the economic growth in this state," Norton said.

Sununu — who hit the 100-day mark for his first term as governor last week — stated that his predecessors had missed the mark on promoting the state's potential.

"One thing I've realized is there's a lot of things the state has ignored, if I'm blunt about it. It's like when you go into a new house and you look under the carpet and see all those dust bunnies. Wow. We lifted up the carpet once we got in there, and saw that all of the things we thought were problematic are actually a lot worse," he said.

New Hampshire is well situated to have a boisterous economy, he and Norton said. Salem, in particular, embodies "everything the state is, on steroids," the public policy expert said.

Housing costs are low — roughly half of the price of places like Andover, Massachusetts, Norton said. And the lack of an income tax is appealing to businesses in New England and elsewhere, said Sununu, who recently promoted the state's economic advantages in Quebec.

The governor's Canadian trip is part of his plan to help boost the state's economy. He also continued his verbal support for removing regulations or "red tape" in the way of housing and other development, as well as improving the state's roadways.

The workforce question is complicated, Norton said, with the crux being education. Both the cost of education and the area's seeming inability to keep young adults in state for college and afterwards were briefly discussed, with the governor mentioning the creation of 1,000 partial scholarships, but little else.

"Not one thing is going to get us to that gold standard that we used to be, that I believe we can be. But you've got to be able to put all of those pieces of the puzzle together, and we are going to have great results in New Hampshire," Sununu said. 

Four businesses were recognized at the Economic Development Breakfast and Business Pillar Awards on Thursday.

Salem's Field of Dreams Park and Playground was awarded the Pillar Award for a nonprofit business, while Plaistow-based RMON Networks Inc. was given the small business award. Windham-based operations Carrier Family Funeral Home and Crematory and Common Man Restaurant were given the new and large business awards, respectively.