A ten-year employment forecast in New Hampshire shows the Seacoast region gaining jobs faster than any other region in NH.
According to a report published by New Hampshire’s Economic Security Agency earlier this week, jobs in the Portsmouth/Salem region are predicted to grow 14.7 percent over the next 10 years –faster than anywhere else in the state. New Hampshire economist Dennis Delay says that’s a bit of a surprise.
“There’s been a change, according to the Security office, as to where they think the fastest growth is going to be in the state. The focus has sort of shifted to seeing higher growth in the Seacoast than around the Manchester area.”
According to Employment Security, the biggest job growth will be in construction, with 37 percent growth by 2022. There will also be major growth in computer and math occupations, business and finance, and of course, healthcare.
However, Delay says, this study didn’t take into account declining population trends in New Hampshire that could limit job growth. “I mean if you don’t have enough people in the labor force to fill the jobs you’re projected to have out there,” says Delay, “those occupations won’t be filled, and you won’t have those jobs.”
Zac Gregg at Vital Design understands this first hand. His Portsmouth web design and marketing firm grew from 10 to 35 employees over the last three years. But, Gregg says, “did we open a Boston office because we looked to recruit from a wider range of talent? Yeah.”
However, Gregg says, the University of New Hampshire and Great Bay Community College have been working with businesses in the community to match college courses to industry demands.
Plus, Gregg says, since 50 percent of his business is in New Hampshire and most of that is on the Seacoast, he sees first hand that businesses here are growing.
The city of Portsmouth does take the state’s employment projections seriously. Nancy Carmer, Economic Development Program Manager for the City of Portsmouth, says the projected 15 percent job growth in 10 years would put pressure Portsmouth for things like housing and transportation. “We are an employment hub here on the Seacoast,” says Carmer. “A lot of the workforce commutes in.”
Getting workers from bedroom communities in, say, Strafford County, to their jobs in housing-saturated Portsmouth, requires planning and investment. “So the city of Portsmouth is working really hard at maximizing all the intermodal opportunities, we just did a bike-ped master plan, we just implemented a shuttle downtown,” she says.
The state anticipates strong growth for other parts of NH, too. The Southern region, which includes Manchester, is growing almost as fast as Rockingham, and the Upper Valley is not far behind.
Job growth projections are lowest in the North Country, which is not a surprise. What may be surprising, however, is that arts, entertainment and recreation fields are growing fast. Only the Rockingham region with its much larger population base outpaces it.