EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

February 16, 2014

Gallup survey hits N.H. on job creation

Most New England states fare poorly

By John Toole
jtoole@eagletribune.com

---- — So much for the “New Hampshire Advantage.”

A new survey by the Gallup polling organization puts New Hampshire among the worst states in the nation for job creation.

The index slammed New England as a whole. Only Massachusetts escaped the bottom 10, finishing in a nine-way tie for 13th best for job creation.

Gallup issued its Job Creation Index last week.

North Dakota, amid its energy boom, topped the nation for the fifth consecutive year in Gallup’s analysis.

New Hampshire tied with Maine and four other states in the seventh worst position.

Rhode Island was the worst state. Vermont tied New Mexico as runner-up worst state. Connecticut tied New York for fifth worst.

The index also includes the District of Columbia, center of the federal government, which tied with South Dakota at No. 2 for best job creation.

The index measures net hiring, with Gallup polling workers about whether their companies are hiring or laying off.

Some saw the Gallup index as reason to be concerned about just where New Hampshire is going with economic and tax policies.

The index ought to be a wake-up call for leaders in Concord, said Greg Moore, state director for Americans for Prosperity.

“Clearly, we are not competitive enough to attract new business and new jobs here,” Moore said. “People vote with their feet and we’re watching them walk to other, more friendly locations.”

The survey also troubled the president of the statewide Business and Industry Association.

“It is very concerning that New Hampshire is in the bottom tier of job-creating states in this survey,” Jim Roche said. “While New Hampshire’s quality of life may be superior, the fact remains this is an expensive place for business. We have high healthcare and energy costs, one of the highest corporate tax rates in the country, and some environmental and labor regulations that exceed federal standards and those of our neighboring states.”

“In addition, New Hampshire is losing young people and not developing an adequate supply of future labor,” especially in science, technology, engineering and math related professions, he said.

New Hampshire leaders have long touted the “New Hampshire Advantage,” the state’s tax policies, including the lack of a sales or income tax, as a job creating engine.

But the poll indicates more must be done.

Gallup released the index less than a week after Gov. Maggie Hassan emphasized job creation in her State of the State address before the Legislature.

Hassan announced plans to improve state services for businesses and modernize science and math education standards, encouraged energy development, called for an investment in infrastructure, and said the state would strengthen the workforce pipeline between schools and manufacturers.

“New Hampshire’s unemployment rate remains well below the national average, our private sector is steadily creating jobs, and the bipartisan budget that just began this past summer includes numerous measures to help businesses grow,” Hassan spokesman Marc Goldberg said. “But Gov. Hassan understands that we must continue working together to address our pressing challenges and lay the foundation for long-term economic success.”

The Gallup index came out just a couple of weeks after Roche called on lawmakers to “do no harm” to the business community.

Roche identified more than a half dozen bills he said “would move New Hampshire’s economy and climate for business and job creation backward.”

Among them were bills Roche said would increase worker compensation costs, potentially lead to litigation from unhappy workers and disappointed job applicants, and raise the minimum wage.

“Businesses will add jobs when they feel confident in a state’s climate for business and if they have access to well-trained, educated workers,” Roche said last week. “There are specific, measurable ways the state can encourage more job creation – lower business taxes when possible, expand and improve the state’s research-and-development tax credit, pass right-to-work legislation, align state and federal regulations, and emphasize the need for STEM education.”

Others weren’t distressed.

Zandra Rice Hawkins, executive director of Granite State Progress, said the index surveys employee perceptions on hiring.

“New Hampshire has consistently had one of the lowest rates of unemployments, even during the economic downturn,” she said. “We are a small but steady state in this regard and employee perspectives on the stability in the New Hampshire workforce reflects that reality.”

The Gallup survey results did not surprise economist Dennis Delay of the New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies.

“The Gallup poll is another data point that shows what other data points are demonstrating,” Delay said.

“It’s a very different economic recovery for New Hampshire from what we’ve seen previously,” he said.

New Hampshire is lagging other states in the recovery, including neighbors Massachusetts and Vermont, Delay said.

“We haven’t seen a significant amount of job growth,” Delay said.

The center’s own research has concluded the state is seeing a slowdown in both educational attainment and the growth in number of people in their 30s and 40s choosing to work in New Hampshire.

That also coincides with rising student debt.

The state also has some of the most restrictive planning and zoning ordinances affecting economic development, and the state needs improvements to roads and bridges, he said.

Delay sees the emerging policy discussion about jobs and the economy as a very good thing for New Hampshire.

“From the governor to the head of the BIA to the people in the financial sector, it is encouraging that people in New Hampshire are starting to talk about what’s going on in the economy and what we can do about it,” Delay said. “There are a lot of indicators out there that suggest future economic growth will be problematic in the state.”