New Hampshire Economy
Historically New Hampshire, like much of New England, depended heavily on paper and grain mills to support its economy. With the decline of mill work throughout the 20th century, the state came to lean on traditional manufacturing as an economic driver. And although manufacturing is still an important part of New Hampshire’s economy, advances in technology and the decline of traditional fabrication work all over the country means factories employ far fewer people than in the past. Toward the end of the 20th century, Massachusetts became a center for high-tech sectors. And in turn, New Hampshire has been able to piggy-back off its neighbor’s success, moving its economy toward electronic component manufacturing and other high-tech industries.
Despite these historic challenges, compared to the rest of the country overall, New Hampshire’s economy is still considered robust.
But talking about New Hampshire’s economy as a whole is tricky business. That’s in part because the state’s culturally–and often economically–distinguished by its regions. So while tourism is central to the Lakes Region economy, it’s less prominent in the Merrimack Valley. And although high-tech work is integral to the Seacoast and Upper Valley economies, it’s much less a factor in the North Country. But keeping regional differences in mind, some overarching statewide trends do emerge.
At this point, a few industries act as main drivers for the state’s economy:
- Smart Manufacturing/High Technology (SMHT): SMHT is the largest and most important sector of the state’s economy. New Hampshire’s SMHT sector is mainly known for using high-tech equipment to produce electronic components.
- Tourism: New Hampshire has traditionally depended on its natural resources and recreational opportunities to draw in out-of-state visitors throughout the year. The Seacoast, Lakes Region, and White Mountains are the primary tourism hotspots.
- Health Care Fields: The Seacoast is a major hub for biomedical research in New Hampshire. And thanks to Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, the Upper Valley has become another center for biotech and other medical research. The state also hosts ten major hospitals, in addition to smaller facilities, that employ a number of health care workers.
Looking to the future, economists say a number of issues could affect the state’s economy, including:
- Demographic Change: One-in-three residents is a Baby Boomer. As they retire, they’ll move into Medicare and Medicaid, which could place a further financial strain on medical facilities that currently count on higher revenue from private insurers.
- Health Care Costs: This issue is closely tied to demographic change. New Hampshire is second in the nation for the portion of private sector employees with health insurance. But as these workers retire, they’ll move into entitlement programs, which could force providers to shift the cost of care to private insurance programs–and, by extension, to businesses.
- Education Funding: New Hampshire operates one of the lowest-funded–and most expensive–state university systems in the country. Many young residents find it cheaper to simply study out-of-state. And many of the state’s young people also choose to live elsewhere. The decline of a homegrown, educated workforce could hurt New Hampshire’s tax base and overall economy.
- Energy Costs: The state has some of the highest per-unit energy costs in the country. This overhead cost can be a barrier for manufacturers and other businesses that use lots of power setting up or expanding in New Hampshire.