Report: Job growth lacking in rural areas of New Hampshire

  • FILE - This April 22, 2014, file photo shows an employment application form on a table at a job fair in Hudson, N.Y.  (AP Photo/Mike Groll, File)

  • Gary Adams of Central NH Employment Services talks with a prospective job candidate during a job fair at the Franklin Public Library on Friday, August 1, 2014. (Alan MacRae/for the Monitor) Alan L. MacRae

Monitor staff
Thursday, August 31, 2017

Even as New Hampshire’s jobless rate remains one of the lowest in the country, as evidenced by all the “help wanted” signs that have sprouted, the rural west and north of the state are largely being left out.

A new analysis says job growth in the state’s most urban counties – basically, the southeastern quarter of the state, a triangle bordered by Nashua, Concord and Dover/Portsmouth – has been relatively high 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 the increases in jobs over the past three years have occurred in Hillsborough, Merrimack, Rockingham and Strafford counties.

“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.”

In particular, Rockingham County, which covers the Seacoast, was responsible for almost 40 percent of the state’s job gains and population increases during that time, according to the report.

Overall, New Hampshire’s jobless rate has fallen to 2.8 percent as of July, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Only four states had jobless rates equal to or lower than that, and none were in New England.

The jobless rate in Massachusetts was 4.3 percent in July, while it was 3.1 percent in Vermont and 3.7 percent in Maine.

But there are some signs that the pace of hiring has begun to slow.

“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.”