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Based on Value and Lifestyle, New Hampshire Tops ‘Cheapest Place to Live’ List

In New Hampshire, it may not quite be “Live Free,” but according to a new report, it’s pretty darn cheap.

Moving company northAmerican Moving Services ranks New Hampshire as America’s “Cheapest Place to Live” based on the overall value for Granite Staters compared to residents of other states. Its report says New Hampshire offers a “high quality of life at a lower price point.”

The company looked at average household income, median home price, average housing cost, average grocery costs, average utilities, inflation costs, and state income taxes for the rankings and determined New Hampshire is the best in the nation.

“These states offer a high quality of life at a lower price point, making them an excellent choice for anyone looking to stretch their budget further,” the report states.

Being first among 50 is something New Hampshire is getting used to. Last year alone, the Granite State was named first in overall freedom by the Cato Institute, first in public safety by U.S. News, and first in economic freedom by the Fraser Institute.

In his State of the State address this month, Gov. Chris Sununu touted New Hampshire’s leading economy and free society as a model for the rest of the country.

“Over the last six years, New Hampshire has become an island of freedom surrounded by highly taxed, highly regulated states,” Sununu said. “We are a harbor for citizens fleeing the states they once called home in pursuit of our Live Free or Die way of life … ‘We have provided leadership that puts ‘The Individual’ ahead of ‘The System.’”

Under Sununu’s watch, New Hampshire has become the fastest-growing economy in the nation, with record-low poverty rates and a booming job market. The state also ranks high for raising children, supporting families, and overall access to healthcare.

“New Hampshire is the envy of the nation, the gold standard of states, and number one place in America to live, work, and raise a family,” Sununu said.

South Dakota, Tennessee, Alaska, and Texas made up the top five cheapest states to live based on those metrics. No other New England state landed in the top 10.

That may explain why New Hampshire gained population last year while Massachusetts and Rhode Island suffered losses.

And a new analysis by the National Taxpayers Union released Thursday also named New Hampshire one of the best states for remote and mobile workers. Thanks to the lack of an individual income tax, the Granite State tied for first with other states that have the same tax policy. Massachusetts ranked 39th and New York was 47th.

Sununu attributes much of the success to New Hampshire’s commitment to small government. The Granite State makes sure that people get to make decisions for themselves.

“Big government authoritarianism might be how they do it in 49 other states, but that’s not how we do it in New Hampshire,” Sununu said.

Hawaii is the most expensive state to live in, according to the northAmerican Moving Services metrics, with Oregon, California, New York, and Utah close behind.

And Massachusetts? It was number 44, one of the 10 most expensive states in the U.S.

National GOP Group Backing NH State House Women

Women in New Hampshire’s GOP are getting a boost from the Republican State Leadership Committee, a national organization throwing its support behind women candidates in State House races up and down the ballot. 

“The RSLC is encouraged to see so many women candidates running in state legislative races who will effectively represent their communities in Concord and advance commonsense policies to counteract Joe Biden’s failed agenda,” said RSLC National Press Secretary Stephanie Rivera.

The RSLC has so far spent $500,000 to help send women and others to Concord this election cycle. According to Rivera, 27 percent of the Republicans running for the House this year are women, as are 26 percent of the GOP Senate candidates. Betting on Republican women is a safe wager, she said.

“In the State House, 51 percent of Republican women who ran in 2020 won their campaigns. In the Senate, Republican women had a 55 percent success rate,” she said.

According to Rivera, the RSLC’s Right Leaders Network is leading the effort to grow the Republican Party through the RSLC’s Right Women Right Now and Future Majority Project initiatives. The committee is focused on recruiting, training, supporting, and electing thousands of diverse state Republicans across the country.

New Hampshire is a key state for both Republicans and Democrats, as the national parties are looking to gain a foothold in state legislature races. The Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (DLCC) is targeting legislatures in New Hampshire, Michigan, and Minnesota, pumping money and resources in an effort to turn all three state legislatures blue.

“We know what we’re up against, but we are making a play to undercut GOP power in the Michigan House and Senate, the Minnesota Senate, and the New Hampshire House and Senate,” DLCC President Jessica Post said on a conference call with reporters Tuesday.

It makes sense for the national GOP to invest in New Hampshire races, according to Rivera, as the GOP leadership in Concord has proven successful in handling the economy and the COVID-19 pandemic, and voters are looking to continue that success.

“New Hampshire has the best economy in the New England region and the second lowest unemployment rate in the country because the Republican-controlled Legislature has made the economy a top priority by passing a historic state budget that includes $171 million in tax relief for working families and small businesses, cuts taxes for retirees, and reduces property taxes by $100 million to provide relief. This diverse slate of candidates will help Republicans hold both chambers in the Granite State to continue this record of success,” Rivera said.

Democrats have been leaning heavily on abortion as an issue to motivate their base. They’re spending big money on ads attacking GOP Gov. Chris Sununu for signing a law that bans abortion after 24 weeks, or six months, of pregnancy. Sununu’s challenger, Sen. Tom Sherman, D-Rye, is using abortion as a major campaign plank, arguing against any restrictions on abortion.

“I would want to put in place Roe v. Wade in the state of New Hampshire,” Sherman said. “New Hampshire does not want the state in between a doctor and a patient, especially on such an intensely private issue.”

The issue may play with well Democratic donors, but not even New Hampshire Democrats support unrestricted abortion through all nine months of pregnancy. A St. Anslem College poll taken in August found about a quarter of Granite State Democrats support some limits on abortion, as do about 70 percent of the general population.

Rivera said New Hampshire voters, especially women voters, see the GOP as having the answer to issues like out-of-control inflation, soaring energy costs, and the price of food.

“Just like all voters in New Hampshire, women are pleased with the job being done by the Republican trifecta in Concord to push back against Joe Biden’s inflation with tax cuts that put more money in the pockets of working families,” Rivera said.

Friday Rail Strike Looms, Threatening NH Economy, Energy Supplies

NOTE: Early Thursday morning, the Biden administration announced a “tentative deal” to avert a strike, though it must go to the union membership for final approval.

 

A pending rail worker strike could shut down passenger rail serving in New Hampshire and hobble businesses that rely on freight for transportation.

The clock is ticking for the freight rail industry and holdout labor unions to reach an agreement on a new contract by Thursday night or face the possibility of an economy-crippling strike just weeks ahead of the midterm elections.

Nine of the 12 unions representing rail employees have bargained an agreement with the industry, based on a framework forged by members of the Presidential Emergency Board (PEB) appointed by the Biden administration. However, two unions—the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail and Transportation Workers (SMART) and the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (BLET)—are the most prominent holdouts as they push their demands.

And on Wednesday came news that the 4,900 members of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers voted to reject the tentative agreement negotiated by their leadership, adding to the turmoil.

In the Granite State, eight freight railroad companies move goods vital to area businesses, said Michael Skelton, president and CEO of the Business & Industry Association. He said a strike would devastate businesses that rely on rail transportation. He wants to see more done to avoid any work stoppage.

“(We echo) the U.S. Chamber’s call that a voluntary agreement by all parties is the best outcome, which can include extending the ‘cooling off’ period for negotiations that ends at 12:01 a.m. Friday,” Skelton said.

Of greatest concern, rail industry experts say, is the large amount of petroleum products like propane and oil, moved by rail. According to the Association of American Railroads, freight rail delivered more than 172,000 tons of petroleum products to New Hampshire in 2019. With winter approaching and energy prices already rising, a rail shutdown could create serious problems.

New Hampshire’s Department of Transportation has been in contact with the freight operators to assess how much of an impact the spike would pose. It was not clear yet how hard the state economy could be hurt by the strike according to the DOT.

One area where the Granite State economy may dodge a bullet is its forestry industry.

“The vast majority of raw forest products (logs, pulp, chips) in New England are transported via trucks intra-state and to Canada,” said Patrick D. Hackley, Director of the Department of Natural & Cultural Resources.

However, Skelton added the strike could do damage beyond the freight end of the rail business. Passenger service may also be impacted.

“A strike would also shut down Amtrak service, leaving approximately 12.2 million daily riders in 46 states without transportation. This includes New Hampshire, which sees more than 200,000 annual boardings at Granite State stations connected to the Vermonter and Downeaster lines,” Skelton said.

Nationally, the American Petroleum Industry on Tuesday warned of severe consequences to energy supplies in a letter to congressional leadership.

“Last Friday, representatives of the oil and gas industry began receiving notifications from the railroads that they intend to begin curtailing shipments of hazardous materials and other chemicals as of today, to ensure carloads of product are not stranded on the tracks if a work stoppage occurs. This curtailment alone, could have profound impacts on the ability of our industry to deliver critical energy supplies to market,” wrote Senior Vice President of Policy, Economics and Regulatory Affairs Frank Macchiarola.

“API requests that Congress prepare to act if negotiations this week fail to produce an agreement to facilitate a workable settlement and prevent catastrophic disruptions to the freight rail network.”

While it is still unclear whether Congress will act, Marc Scribner, senior transportation policy analyst at Reason Foundation said there is increasing pressure for Washington to get involved.

“Members of Congress from both parties are growing increasingly frustrated with union intransigence and are unlikely to tolerate a strike given current supply chain problems and the timing so close to their midterm elections,” Scribner said.

If a strike occurs, Scribner could see Congress acting within 24 hours to “end the strike and impose the PEB recommendations as a final settlement.”

A strike could hurt a national economy still reeling from supply chain problems. And Tuesday’s inflation number, holding close to steady at 8.3 percent annually, included news that grocery prices rose 13.5 percent year over year.

No goods on trains mean no products on trucks and even higher prices in stores due to supply and demand. As a result, organizations including the Beer Institute and Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) are, like the American Trucking Association, urging Congress to get involved.

“Reports indicate a strike could impact the economy by up to two billion dollars each day in lost activity,” said RILA’s Michael Hanson. “Absent a voluntary agreement by the Sept. 16 deadline, Congress should take swift action to implement the PEB recommendations.”

Additional reporting by Damien Fisher

 

Nashua Named One of America’s Best-Run Cities

Nashua is one of the best-run cities in the country according to a new WalletHub analysis. It finds the Gate City offers high-quality services within an affordable municipal budget. 

Nashua ranks fourth overall in the study based on metrics like financial stability, infrastructure, safety, health, the economy, and education. Nampa, Idaho tops the list followed by Boise, Idaho, and Fort Wayne, Ind.

There is no secret to Nashua’s success, city leaders said.

“It’s not that it’s magic, it’s just good old hard work,” said Nashua Alderman Mike O’Brien.

Mayor Jim Donchess said city hall staff and department leaders work at bringing the best services to residents at the most efficient cost.

“I know here in Nashua we are very careful with money,” Donchess said. “We look at every expenditure while also making sure we’re investing appropriately in our city services.”

According to the analysis, Nashua is tied for second place in quality of roads and fourth in lowest violent crime rate. The city made the top 10 in both the quality of the services and the lowest cost per capita. That is a rare combination.

Wendy Hunt, with the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce, said if Nashua has a secret it is the leadership and the dedicated municipal employees.

“I think the secret to Nashua is the departments work well together, elected officials work well together, and they’re very responsive,” Hunt said,

Aldermen throughout the city are willing to deal with constituent problems and work for solutions, she said. “They are always very on top of the needs of the community.”

O’Brien said Nashua’s leadership takes a long view when it comes to managing the city.

“I’m not doing this to make changes, but to be a custodian for the city,” O’Brien said. “My grandchildren will grow up in this city and I want to make it the best city we can afford to make it.”

Robert Wright, Senior Faculty Fellow at the American Institute for Economic Research, said many American cities saw the quality of life decline during the COVID-19 pandemic. Wright said poorly run cities suffered rising crime, school dropouts, increased unemployment, and increased municipal debt.

“All (the declines) were self-inflicted as shown by well-run cities that quickly dropped unnecessary COVID restrictions, nipped unrest in the bud, and maintained criminal deterrence policies.

Nashua continues to have low unemployment (2.3 percent) as the pandemic’s effects fade.  O’Brien said Nashua’s Police and Fire Departments have done an excellent job keeping people safe, and the city is even using a COVID-19 protocol–outdoor dining downtown–to its advantage. O’Brien said outdoor dining has become so popular the city plans to continue making it possible.

Nashua is not without its problems. O’Brien cited a lack of affordable housing in the city as a concern that needs to be addressed. He is confident the city will continue to work on improvements.

“We in Nashua understand the needs of the community, and we actively work hard to make the city a desirable city to live in,” he said.

Two New Hampshire cities made the top 20 despite being one of the smallest states. Manchester checked in at number 19.

REPORT: Granite State’s Economy Fifth Best in Nation

New Hampshire has one of the strongest state economies in the country, with high rates of high-tech jobs, low unemployment, and a GDP growth rate that outperforms California, according to a new data analysis from WalletHub. 

The report, which looked at how each state’s economy has fared since the end of the COVID-19 pandemic recession, ranks the Granite State as the fifth-best economy in America, behind Washington state, Utah, California, and Massachusetts.

New Hampshire easily outperforms the remaining New England states, with Connecticut coming in at 25, Rhode Island at 36, Vermont at 41, and Maine trailing at number 44.

However, according to experts, New Hampshire could be headed toward a recession as runaway inflation continues to drive up the price of energy, housing, and other needs.

New Hampshire comes in second, behind Tennessee and ahead of California, when it comes to positive change in gross domestic product or GDP. It is tied for first with Utah, Nebraska, Kansas, and Minnesota for the lowest unemployment rate. It is fifth when it comes to having the highest number of immigrants with advanced educations, and is fourth in the percentage of high-tech jobs.

Gov. Chris Sununu said the overall picture is good, but warned there are negative forces outside New Hampshire’s control that could be a problem.

“We’ve taken steps over these last few years to ensure that New Hampshire’s economy remains strong,” Sununu said. “But given Washington’s inaction in combating inflation and out-of-control spending, an economic downturn is on the horizon, and we are doing everything we can at the state level to minimize the impact on our citizens.” 

One expert interviewed by WalletHub, Robert Wyllie, Assistant Professor of Political Science ad Director of Political Economy Program at Ashland University in Ohio, said the country as a whole should be concerned about a potential recession and inflation getting worse. He said we could see a return to the 1970s.

“High inflation, fueled in part by high energy prices, combined with slow growth points has drawn many comparisons to the 1970s,” Wyllie said.

A recent University of New Hampshire Carsey School of Public Policy report warned of a stagnating economy. New Hampshire’s economy needs state and federal leaders to address roadblocks that come up as the world economy tries to move past COVID.

“As the state, nation, and world hopefully emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic carnage it created, New Hampshire is, to some extent, subject to economic forces beyond its control,” the report states.

The state’s many long-term challenges include the housing shortage, the shrinking labor force, the need for childcare, and infrastructure investments.

“New Hampshire has many economic advantages that position it well as it seeks to address the challenges of wage stagnation, childcare shortages, educational inequity, an aging workforce, housing affordability, struggling families, and C- infrastructure,” the UNH report states. “It has a strong and diverse economic base from which to grow, and its workforce is well-educated. With foresight and will, New Hampshire can chart a course to a productive, prosperous economy that addresses these challenges and enhances the well-being of all who live here.”

However, New Hampshire has also repeatedly been ranked near the top of the “Freedom Index” by multiple sources, due to its low tax and low regulation environment. And that could be both a reason its economy is overperforming today and has a brighter future tomorrow.

In the Wallethub report, Vincent Gloss, assistant professor of economics at George Mason University argued that “economic freedom (i.e. lower regulation, lower taxes and lower spending, safer property rights) does not only minimize downturns associated with exogenous shocks such as a pandemic, but it also accelerates recovery. Governments should look at policies that allow firms and families more flexibility in their decisions and that means stepping back.”

Red-Hot NH Economy Struggles to Find Workers

New Hampshire businesses continue to struggle to find workers even as the state economy leads the rest of New England, according to data released this week.

New Hampshire ranks in the top five states with the most open jobs, according to a WalletHub study released this week. Alaska, Vermont and Wyoming top the list of states where employers have the most trouble finding workers, with New Hampshire coming in fourth.

According to the study, New Hampshire has had an 8.5 percent job opening rate in the last 30 days, with a 7.28 percent rate over that last year. This means New Hampshire businesses need to work harder to get and keep employees, according to Paul  Antonellis, director of Institutional Planning and Assessment at Endicott College.

“The employer should be open to identifying what employees today want/need to ensure that they are meeting or exceeding those wants/needs. Today the employer must be willing to think outside the box as to how they can recruit and retain employees, what worked in the past may no longer be a driving force today and the employer needs to be willing to pivot recruitment and retention efforts for the given occupation,” he said.

According to Anthony Farina, a professor with Baruch College, City University of New York, attracting and retaining employees might be a simple matter of paying more for front line workers. There are many businesses that pay executives big salaries while skipping on the front line workers.

“If you can pay someone millions of dollars plus stock, year, after year, after year, you can pay your people better at the lower end of the pay spectrum. People are aware of what goes on in the C-Suite and at board meetings, so get out of your bubble and be willing to pay people better. You might be surprised,” he said.

Rowena Gray, Associate Professor of Economics at the University of California, said a big factor to the number of employees who are taking advantage of the CVID endemic by switching jobs and careers, leaving low paying gigs for better situations.

“So, this is good for workers and the high turnover rate might then be thought of as a chance to make better matches between workers and employers, which might also boost productivity,” she said.

Gray thinks the economic pressure will continue to bear on businesses who rely on lower wages for employees. These businesses will continue to see unionization efforts and other pushes to increase pay and benefits,

“The biggest pressure right now is on the lowest-paid work, so I would expect pay and benefits to be the main focus. We are seeing the push to unionize in various employers which have used zero-hours contracts and avoided offering benefits to employees, and maybe workers will be able to end those scenarios in this era of higher worker leverage,” she said.

Gov. Chris Sununu boasted Thursday about the Granite State’s rankings that show New Hampshire is a regional leader in economic and population growth and as a national leader in freedom and public safety.

“Ranking after ranking shows that the Granite State is the place to be,” he said. “We are very proud that our life here in the 603 is simply the best of the best, but we did not get here by accident.”

Sununu’s Insanely Hot Economy Should Be A Big Deal. So Why Isn’t It?

If pundits are looking for more evidence that partisanship is the most important motivator in American politics, New Hampshire just added another data point:

In November, the Granite State economy hit a record for the number of employed residents and a 30-year low unemployment rate…and voters threw out the Republican House and Senate and gave the incumbent GOP governor just 53 percent of the popular vote.

On Wednesday, the new jobs report revealed the highest number of working state residents ever– 763,040– and unemployment down to 2.5 percent, the lowest since August, 1988.  “Thanks to the strategic initiatives that New Hampshire has made, and our pro-growth, pro-jobs focus, more Granite Staters are working than ever before in the state’s history,” Gov. Chris Sununu said in a statement. It’s the same argument he made during the 2018 campaign, and one that his challenger, Molly Kelly, famously had no answer to.

 

“Today’s economic news continues the positive trends of the past few years relating to the labor force; demographics; migration; exports; unemployment, and capital investment,” said Taylor Caswell, commissioner of the Department of Business and Economic Affairs. “We can say with confidence that New Hampshire’s economy remains highly competitive and will continue to attract top talent and world class employers.”

All great news. No, not great: Spectacular.  And yet, the fourth-most popular governor in the country with a red-hot economy and an unimpressive opponent won an 8-point win.  If “The Economy, Stupid” rules were in effect, this wouldn’t happen.

The same with President Donald Trump. Setting aside the stock market’s end-of-year “polar bear plunge,” the Trump economy has been unbelievably strong–literally. Pundits predicted economic disaster from a Trump presidency and dismissed Trump’s talk of 3 percent (and higher) growth as unrealistic.  The growth rate in the last quarter? 3.5 percent. The quarter before that: 4.2 percent.  And the national jobs numbers are just as hot: 3.7 percent unemployment, record-high employment among minority workers and the highest annual increase in wages in nine years.

And where’s Trump’s approval rating? 43 percent approve, 52 percent disapprove.

This is the environment New Hampshire Republicans must navigate, one where partisan animus overwhelms actual pocketbook performance.  Social scientists continue to be astonished by this new American moment, when the best predictor of behavior isn’t race or sex or economic standing–but partisanship.  That’s not how America has worked in the past.  The Republicans who crossed over and voted for Bill Clinton in 1996, the Democrats who stuck with George W. Bush in 2004 over national-security issues–they’re gone.  They’ve been replaced by a growing number of voters who simply vote party without seriously considering candidates from across the aisle.

Which means that, for Gov. Sununu and the Republicans who hope to re-take the state legislature or offer a serious challenge to congressional Democrats, delivering results and recruiting strong candidates isn’t enough. They have to find a way to shift voter’s views of the GOP brand here in New Hampshire.

And that’s another reason why the NHGOP’s choice of a new chairman is so important.  Creating a Granite State-friendly GOP brand is vital. Unfortunately, in a Trump-dominated political environment, it may next to impossible.

OPINION: The BIA Asks “What’s the Score?”

Baseball fans love to argue who has the strongest team, the best pitching, and fiercest lineup. And they make their case by using stats: winning record, ERA, batting average.

At the State House, many of the players say they’ll support legislation that promotes a healthy climate for job creation and a strong New Hampshire economy. Because businesses are the number one payer of state taxes, legislators often say they’ll get behind efforts that help businesses thrive. But when they finally get their turn at the plate, some just leave the bat on their shoulder and watch pitches go by.

BIA recently published its fourteenth annual Legislative Scorecard and fifth annual Victories & Defeats for New Hampshire Businesses. (Access the publication on our website, BIAofNH.com.) The companion pieces track how all Senators and House members voted on legislation of keen interest to the business community and summarizes the outcome of a wide variety of bills in a mix of policy areas.

The Scorecard section is easy to follow. Individual scores are based on roll call votes only (those in which lawmakers’ votes are recorded by the clerk), not up-or-down voice votes in which a Senator’s or Representative’s position is difficult, if not impossible, to identify. Selected legislation (ten bills for the Senate, eleven bills in the House) covers a variety of issue areas.

BIA is a nonpartisan advocate for our members – leading employers in every corner of the state. Business-friendly legislation sometimes falls on the political left and sometimes falls on the political right. Not everyone agrees with BIA on every vote; however, 141 Senators and Representatives – both democrats and republicans – scored high enough to warrant special recognition.

Those scoring between 86-100% on selected legislation received the honor, “Champion of Business.” Those who scored between 70-85% are recognized as “Friend of Business.” If you meet a state legislator running for re-election over the next few weeks, ask them what their BIA Scorecard percentage was (or look it up yourself online).

While the Scorecard is intended to hold legislators accountable for their response to business issues, the Victories & Defeats portion of the publication reports on the legislature’s efforts to enhance New Hampshire’s climate for job creation. By extension, the publication is a reflection of BIA’s efforts to influence public policy. As New Hampshire’s leading business advocate, our members expect us to communicate their concerns to elected officials. No one bats a thousand, but looking back at the 2018 session, BIA did well.

For example, in the area of employment law, we flashed some Gold Glove-caliber defense on a flurry of bills that would have allowed state government to intrude on private business decisions in everything from hiring practices to scheduling to benefits administration. We think employers know better than politicians how to run their businesses. Most lawmakers agreed with us, and all bills of this type, which are listed in the document, were defeated.

Another area where legislators heard us was on environmental policy. Most thoughtful business leaders agree the issue of emerging contaminants, such as PFOS and PFOA, should be taken seriously and thoughtfully addressed. Throughout the 2018 session however, we saw an overreaction to this issue. Although modern technology can now detect the presence of chemicals at increasingly smaller concentrations (parts-per-trillion), science around health impacts of smaller concentrations is lagging.

We saw lawmakers attempt to address this conundrum by tasking the state to do something the federal government’s Environmental Protection Agency, academia, and industry scientists have yet to do: establish new standards for a cornucopia of compounds in the air, groundwater, and surface water. Then legislators proposed taking existing standards and unilaterally change them to arbitrary levels – levels not based on science, just numbers that would show their constituents they’re “doing something.” After articulating the folly of this approach, these bills were defeated.

We had a mixture of wins and losses in the areas of tax policy, economic development, health care, and education. For example, the House and Senate missed opportunities to put downward pressure on New Hampshire electricity prices, which are already 50-60% higher than the national average year-round. They instead listened to special interests that wanted ratepayer subsidies for unprofitable power generators.

The season at the State House is over and we spectators are already thinking about the next season coming up in January. BIA’s Legislative Scorecard and Victories & Defeats publication is a stat sheet for voters to evaluate their elected officials and determine who’s an MVP and who should ride the bench.

New Hampshire Has Nothing To Fear From Trump’s Trade War

Is there a trade war on the way?  Or is these announced sanctions, as President Trump’s new top economic advisor Larry Kudlow says, merely “first proposals” in a broader trade negotiation?

Either way, New Hampshire should be OK.  Why? Because the good news (and bad) for New Hampshire business is that foreign trade is just 18 percent of the state’s economic activity. So even if the US and China are serious about the tit-for-tat sanctions currently under discussion, the impact on the Granite State should be relatively small.

According to data from the US Census Bureau, New Hampshire exported a total of $5.1 billion worth of goods in 2017, accounting for just 0.3 percent of all US exports. As the New Hampshire Employment Security, Economic and Labor Market Information Bureau put it, “the total value of exports from New Hampshire is relatively small, ranking 43rd when compared to the other states and the District of Columbia.”

New Hampshire’s number one export? Civilian aviation equipment, though overall telecom and related tech dominate New Hampshire’s export sector.

And if a China/US trade war should ignite, New Hampshire will benefit from the fact that its largest export recipients are in North America, not Asia. Canada and Mexico are the top of the list of nations receiving New Hampshire exports. In fact, when it comes to goods (as opposed to services), New Hampshire exports more to the United Arab Emirates than to China.

If these numbers seem surprisingly low, it’s probably because—like most Americans—you overestimate the role of trade in the overall economy.  While the US exported a robust $1.454 trillion worth of goods and services in 2016, the nation’s GDP that year was $18.6 trillion. That’s more than a drop in the bucket, but it’s still a modest-sized bucket.

The states that rely most on foreign trade tend to be in the South, states like South Carolina, Louisiana and Tennessee. What do they have in common? Agriculture and relatively low-skill manufacturing. New Hampshire ranks 48th in the dollar value of agricultural output by state. Granite State manufacturing is more high skill and tech related.

If New Hampshire’s political and economic leaders really want to impact the state’s manufacturing sector, their priority wouldn’t be exports abroad. It would be lowering energy costs here at home.

NH Near Top Of Home Value Rankings–Is That Good News Or Bad?

In a new analysis of home value and purchasing power trends, New Hampshire ranks fourth in the nation, with home values up 6.1 percent in the last year alone.  Compared to the national average of a mere 2.3 percent increase, that’s good news for Granite State homeowners. In fact, some people are asking if the news is too good.

Housing prices are frequently mentioned by workers thinking of relocating to New England, in particular younger workers.  While rising home values can make existing homeowners happy, it makes relocating to New Hampshire that much harder for renters and would-be future buyers.

“We can say all day long that we want young people to move back here, but there is no place for them to live where they would like to live.” That’s the view of Carmen Lorentz, executive director of Lakes Region Community Developers. She told the Laconia Daily Sun: 

“Many of the young and talented workers that we are begging to stay or move to New Hampshire do not want to live in an apartment. Many of them want to own a house – that is part of the New Hampshire lifestyle they envision for themselves.”

And with New Hampshire home prices consistently rising faster than both the New England region and the rest of the nation, it makes that vision harder to realize. In an interview on NHPR last month, Executive Director of the New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority Dean Christon, described the NH housing market as “an environment where there’s price pressure and limited inventory of both [housing] up for sale and rental housing.  It affects lower income people more, and it affects people trying to purchase their first home.”

So are rising home values creating a crisis?  Mark Fleming says… not yet. Fleming is Chief Economist for First American Financial Corporation, the company that calculates the Real House Price Index (RHPI) rankings based on income, mortgage rates and an unadjusted house price index.  Fleming told NHJournal.com that, while New Hampshire housing prices are up, they still aren’t “back.”

“Our index for New Hampshire is a 68 on a 100 scale, 100 being the purchasing power of a homeowner in the year 2000,” he says.  “In real terms, New Hampshire is still 32 percent away from getting back to their year 2000 levels.”

A key factor in that relative affordability? New Hampshire incomes, which also rose last year. Personal income in the Granite State grew by 3.5 percent—the fastest in New England.

Still, Fleming says, unless something changes, the housing market could start having a negative impact on the rest of the economy by pricing out both young families and the skilled workers employers need. The issue, he says, isn’t on the demand side—even if interest rates doubled, there would still be a net increase in demand, Fleming estimates. It’s on the supply side.  There just aren’t enough housing units being built in New Hampshire for long-term price stability.

Bob Quinn, Vice President of Government Affairs for the NH Association of Realtors. agrees.

“We believe the best long-term solution is increasing housing stock and thereby maintaining our growing economy,” Quinn told NHJournal.com.  “The most significant impediments to housing from a public policy perspective are restrictive zoning laws. Some communities put up unnecessary obstacles to the development of housing, which increases the cost. We strongly believe in allowing developers to build more densely, therefore accommodating both the desires of home buyers while preserving New Hampshire’s natural resources.”

Data from the New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority appears to back this view. Their February 2018 Housing report found:

  • A relatively low inventory of homes for sale, particularly under $300,000
  • Housing permits (reflecting construction activity) of multi-family and single-family homes at half the level they were prior to the Great Recession (end of 2007)

In addition to increased supply, Fleming also urges New Hampshire leaders to promote education in high-skill, high-wage jobs.  “Your region is never going to compete on price,” Fleming says. “But you can encourage young people to pursue the high-wage jobs of the future to pay the housing prices of the future.”

The good news is that New Hampshire’s housing assets continue to increase in value. Perhaps the better news is that, with increased inventory and an educated workforce, New Hampshire has the public policy tools to keep from “valuing” itself into a housing crisis.