New Report Examines New Hampshire Economy, Finds Wages for Many Workers Losing Ground
CONCORD, NH – The New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute (NHFPI) today released a new report, The State of Working New Hampshire, which finds that while the Granite State economy appears to be flourishing by some measures, the benefits are not being felt by everyone.
“A well-functioning economy should ensure that the workers contributing to it share in the gains they have helped to produce,” said NHFPI Executive Director Jeff McLynch. “Yet wages for the typical New Hampshire worker have not regained ground lost during the recession. Those workers – and the financial anxiety they face – should be the focus of policymakers’ efforts to shape the New Hampshire economy in the years ahead.”
The State of Working New Hampshire examines short- and long-term trends in employment, workforce demographics, wages, and incomes. Key findings include:
New Hampshire’s workforce is aging in character and stagnating in size. More than 25 percent of the state’s workforce is over age 55; in 2015, only Maine and Vermont had larger shares of the workforce in this age category. As increasing numbers of workers retire, there may not be enough younger workers to replace them, which raises concerns for the future of the workforce.
While employment is expanding in terms of the number of jobs, the quality of these new jobs has declined. An analysis of New Hampshire’s major employment sectors from 1990 to 2015 finds a steady shift away from higher wage manufacturing jobs toward lower wage service sector positions. Employment gains are found largely in the health care, social assistance, administrative support services, and hospitality industries, which traditionally offer lower wages on average.
Economic output for New Hampshire is expanding, but income for the typical household has declined. The state’s median hourly wage fell nearly 7 percent between 2007 and 2015. While New Hampshire has one of the highest median wages in the country, it experienced one of the steepest declines among all states since the onset of the recession.
Since 1990, New Hampshire has experienced uneven wage growth, which has grown increasingly more pronounced over time, particularly for workers on the lower end of the wage distribution. After adjusting for inflation, a worker in the top fifth of the distribution saw wages grow by 11 percent, while the hourly wage for a worker in the bottom fifth is now 7.4 percent lower overall.
As NHFPI explained in its earlier report, Taking the Measure of Need in the Granite State, the official poverty threshold understates the degree of economic insecurity in New Hampshire and elsewhere, as a family of three is considered “not poor” if it earns a collective income of $20,000. Of the roughly 77,900 working age adults living in poverty in New Hampshire, around 54 percent were employed full-time or part-time in 2014, and one-third of these adults – around 28,900 individuals – had attended college at some point in their lives.
“As we consider public policies that will bolster employment and enable individuals to engage in the workforce more readily, we should be mindful of the fact that some jobs simply may not pay enough for workers and their families to achieve economic security,” said McLynch.
The New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute is an independent, non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to exploring, developing, and promoting public policies that foster economic opportunity and prosperity for all New Hampshire residents, with an emphasis on low- and moderate-income families and individuals. Learn more at www.nhfpi.org.