New Hampshire Economy

The Past

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.

The Present

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.

The Future

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.
neetalparekh / flickr/cc

With politicians promising to create so-called "good jobs", we look at what government can and can't do in this area.  Also, rents in the Granite State keep rising, up fifteen percent in the last five years.  And New Hampshire joins a national lawsuit challenging the merger of two health insurance companies, Anthem and Cigna. 

Politics in Hip Hop, Sleepover Podcast, & Twinkies

Jul 22, 2016
Jenn Durfey via Flickr CC /

Since it's early days, hip hop have critiqued oppressions both political and economic - while flashing their own wealth and bravado. Donald Trump became a symbol of the latter, but recent mentions of him in hip hop have become much less positive during his campaign for president in the 2016 election. 

Plus, a few years ago, one of America's most beloved snack cakes was in danger of disappearing forever - until investors swooped in and saved the day. What started out as a rescue mission quickly evolved into a business strategy, and resulted in substantial changes to the brand. How are we preserving the mythical, magical Twinkie.

Roadsidepictures via Flickr CC /

A few years ago, one of America's most beloved snack cakes was in danger of disappearing forever - until investors swooped in and saved the day. What started out as a rescue mission quickly evolved into a business strategy, and resulted in substantial changes to the brand. Today, preserving the mythical, magical Twinkie.

Plus, awareness of mental health issues is on the rise, but it's not limited to people. We'll speak with an expert working with animals to resolve their mental health issues and better understand the inner lives of creatures who don't have the words to express it.

Darren Hester / Morguefile

The New Hampshire Department of Resources and Economic Development launched an initiative this week to help industries maintain their workforce.

Young people in New Hampshire are gravitating away from manufacturing jobs. And that's not ideal, because manufacturing is the largest driver of the New Hampshire economy.

The Manufacturing Sector Partnership creates a state-wide collaboration for industries to address their workforce needs.

Kandy Jaxx / Flickr

These days, the story of New Hampshire’s economy is kind of a “good news, bad news” tale. The good news: Unemployment is low, at least on paper, and wages seem to be rising, if slowly. The bad news: Employers are struggling to fill positions, and lots of prospective employees say they can’t find the kind of stable, full-time work they’d like to have.

New Hampshire gun manufacturer Sig Sauer lost an appeal in a US Appeals Court this week. The dispute was over the classification of a “silencer" device.

It’s easy for Americans to see the Brexit debate as a British issue. But the personal finance website says if Britons vote tomorrow to exit the European Union, European vacations will likely be cheaper, mortgage rates might fall, the stock market could drop, and it would be harder to find a job in Britain.

Here & Now’s Lisa Mullins talks to economist Diane Swonk about the impact of Brexit on Americans.

What is your opinion on the Brexit? Let us know in a Here & Now poll:


  The state is set to release new employment figures this week. 

photologue_np via flickr Creative Commons

A new state forecast shows New Hampshire will see continued job growth through 2024, but it won't be fast. 

tinafranklindg / flickr cc

We examine several key indicators and their impact on the Granite state.  One is rising inflation.  Another is consumer debt:  Americans are spending more, but we're also borrowing -- to the tune of nearly one trillion dollars.  Also, a new report finds a worrisome trend: business formation in small towns and rural counties has dropped dramatically.

Credit Nick McPhee via flickr Creative Commons

 A coalition in the Monadnock Region is pushing for more local businesses to pay workers at least $15 an hour.

Kandy Jaxx / Flickr

  The state is set to release new unemployment figures this week. 

Brian Boucheron via Flickr CC /

The intersection between technology and food makes a lot of people wary. Concerns over industrialized food, GMOs and big agriculture’s profit motive have sparked a foodie movement that demands whole, responsibly grown fare. On today’s show, an agricultural economist says high tech methods are crucial when it comes to confronting obesity, environmental degradation, and global hunger.

We'll also talk with humorist Roy Blount Jr. who grew up in a southern home, where butter was considered a food group, and you had to save room for pie!  Plus a look into a new airline that caters to fashion’s elite.     

Stanley Zimny via Flickr CC /

On the Titanic, metal gates kept the unwashed from the upper crust - today's cruises offer high-rollers seclusion using key cards and velvet ropes.Today, travel perks in the new Gilded Age.

Then, from Little House on the Prairie, to the pastoral scenes printed on butter packages,  Americans tend to think of the agrarian past as wholesome and simpler . But, the real family farm has not always been pure or pretty.

Plus, Sean Hurley searches for buried treasure with a group of metal detectives.

NHPR Staff


Lawmakers are receiving a series of briefings on New Hampshire's labor market, economy and demographic challenges.

Economists and other experts are making presentations Monday to House and Senate lawmakers who sit on key committees that determine how money is raised and spent in New Hampshire. The briefings are open to the public and will be live streamed on the state's website.

Jacqui Jade O'Donnell / Flickr/CC

From petting zoos to pick-your-own, farmers across New Hampshire are diversifying in new ways to stay afloat. But that’s raising tensions in some towns, where neighbors say large-scale events like weddings can be a nuisance. We look at the impact of a recent state Supreme Court ruling on the issue and how lawmakers are exploring solutions.


After years of little to no growth in wages, Granite State workers may see their paychecks fatten.  Spring has sprung for the construction industry, especially on the Seacoast and in the Manchester area.   And a national ranking finds what many New Hampshire parents already know:  child care here is among the priciest in the nation.

exhibition hall from Hannover Messe
Courtesy Hannover Messe

  New Hampshire officials are taking part in two international trade events this week.

S Cook/Flickr Creative Commons

New Hampshire milk production ticked up slightly in the first quarter of the year. 

The latest data from the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service shows 72 million pounds of milk produced between January and March.

Jason Moon for NHPR

Residents of a mobile home park in Portsmouth recently purchased the land they’ve been living on for decades. This park joins a growing number of other mobile home communities to do the same. When Kathy Ireland received a letter last year that said the mobile-home park she lives in was being sold, she wasn’t quite sure how to take it.


New Hampshire’s unemployment rate fell to 2.6 percent in March – one of the lowest rates in the country, and the lowest for the state since 2000. But that may actually be bad news for employers.

bytemarks / Flickr Creative Commons

  More than two dozen employers and job assistance organizations will take part in a job fair this week in Laconia. 

Sean Hurley

It hasn't been a great year for skiers or ski areas across the Granite State.  But it's not just the mountains that suffered from the lack of snow.

Allegra Boverman / NHPR

It's been fifteen years since the state's unemployment rate was down this far - at 2.7%: good news, but there's concern a tight labor market makes it tough for employers to find workers.  We'll look at that, as well as improvements in the housing market, especially for sellers, and the local impact of global turmoil.