CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — A new economic report predicts that New Hampshire manufacturers will continue to produce more with fewer workers over the next five years.
There are about 2,000 manufacturing companies in New Hampshire, employing more than 66,000 people and accounting for 15 percent of the state's gross state product. An economic forecast released Wednesday by the New England Economic Partnership estimates that manufacturing jobs will decrease by an average of four-tenths of a percent each year in the next five years, while output will continue to grow. That's a slower decline in jobs than the state saw in the last five years, when the number of jobs dropped by an average of 3 percent a year.
The report highlights a few manufacturing success stories from the last six months. A Wolfeboro company that makes custom foam and plastic parts is nearly doubling the size of its facility and may hire more workers, a New Ipswich company that makes specialty textiles landed a $94.3 million military contract and a Laconia aerospace manufacturing company plans to expand its workforce by at least 80 jobs in the next two years.
The forecast is slightly more optimistic than one the partnership released six months ago, said Dennis Delay, an economist with the New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies who will present the New Hampshire forecast at a regional meeting Thursday. But New Hampshire's position relative to other states remains the same.
Beyond manufacturing, the report concludes that the state may not reach its pre-recession job count until next spring. Massachusetts already has reached the milestone, and Vermont is expected to soon, Delay said.
"That's by any measure a fairly disappointing performance for the New Hampshire economy," he said. "Usually we're a leader in economic growth and job growth."
Population shifts partly explain the difference. According to census data, most of New Hampshire's population growth through the 1970s, '80s and '90s came from people moving into the state, but that inflow has slowed in the last decade. As the number of migrants has dropped, so too has the financial boost that came along with the trend.