December 18, 2011
Senator Odell is Chairman of
the Ways and
Means Committee; Chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources
Committee; Vice Chairman of the Finance Committee; Vice Chairman
of the State Parks Advisory Council; and member of the Capital Budget
District 8 towns: Acworth, Alstead, Charlestown, Claremont,
Gilsum, Goshen, Langdon, Lempster, Marlow, New London, Newbury,
Newport, Roxbury, Stoddard, Sullivan, Sunapee, Sutton, Unity,
Walpole, Washington and Westmoreland.
Heading into the last two weeks of the holiday season with everyone buoyant, optimistic and enthusiastic may not be the best time to hold an economic summit at the State House.
I was very excited to leave Milford to go to school to study economics, the “dismal science.” While my major changed, my interest in economics has remained. Most of us have a positive approach in our outlook and hopes for our own personal well being as well as that of the state and nation. That optimism has been tough to maintain as we work through the hangover of recession.
Leaving the first morning of meetings my colleagues on the Senate and House Finance and Ways and Means Committees were pretty glum. The title of David Wyss’ presentation was: “The Economic Outlook: ‘Half-Speed’ Ahead.” Dr. Wyss is now at Brown University teaching undergraduate classes after a long career with Standard and Poor’s as a top economic analyst.
Wyss is pretty clear how, in his opinion, we got into the recession. We “were living beyond our means” spending too much and saving too little. He believes it will take a long
time to fully get out of the recession.
In Wyss’ opinion, housing is at the center of our problems. “We built too many houses at too high prices,” he says, with prices relative to income peaking at a record high in 2007. Prices are down from those highs by one-third and will continue to fall through next spring.
Most distressing, Wyss sees a real possibility of the United States entering another recession next year. Jeff Applegate, Chief Investment Officer of Morgan Stanley Smith Barney also foresees the United States and Europe slipping back into recession but that will be
a “global recession.”
Others speaking to the national economic situation had similar takes on the situation. On the second day, however, New Hampshire-oriented economists and analysts presented a much brighter future in the Granite State.
Bruce DeMay, Director of the Economic and Labor Market Bureau at the Department of Employment Security, found an improving picture on the employment side. Unemployment has continued to decline dropping to a 5.2 percent in November while the national rate is above 8 percent. That means we have the fourth lowest unemployment in the nation and the lowest in New England. We are, for example, at half of Rhode Island’s rate of 10.4 percent.
Progress is slow but steady for jobs. Employment in the first six months of this year averaged 6,500 higher than the same average in 2010. Mr. DeMay pointed out that nearly one-half of the New Hampshire jobs lost in the recession have been regained,
and the number unemployed has dropped by one-third from the peak (53,000 to 39,420) and people are unemployed for shorter periods of time than at the bottom of the recession.
Beyond employment, other economic factors in New Hampshire are on a steady but slow improvement pattern.
There were three points from the two days that stick with me:
From Charlie Arlinghaus of the Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy, New Hampshire’s job growth has been slow for a decade. Between 1991 and 2001, the state added 166,000 jobs; between 2001 and 2011, 77,000 jobs.
I dropped by the annual Christmas Party at the Claremont Area Chamber of Commerce last week and overheard a conversation that included something along these lines: “I am always glad to be at Chamber events. People here are always so optimistic and don’t just tell us how negative things are.” I think it is true. The small business owners and operators who populate local chambers of commerce are at the heart and soul of our towns and small cities. They could not go to work every day without being enthusiastic about the potential ahead.
Prior to stopping by the Claremont Chamber, I attended a farewell event with plenty of holiday spirit at the New London Inn honoring Rob Bryant for his five and one-half years of leading the Lake Sunapee Chamber of Commerce.
Not many chambers of commerce have their own building but that is where I met Rob a couple of days later. The Lake Sunapee chamber has its own building on New London’s Main Street and as Rob pointed out it was “95 percent built with volunteer labor and 85 percent with donated materials” in the chamber of commerce tradition.
It has been great working with Rob over the years and wish him well in retirement although I am sure we will often see him around town. His successor, Jennifer Tockman, takes over this week.
My house in Lempster has not had a Christmas tree over the past few years because of family circumstances. That has changed this year and the living room is fully decorated and we have our expectations of a shared Christmas with family and neighbors with old traditions returning. All best Christmas wishes to my readers as they celebrate with their holiday traditions once again. It is a wonderful time of the year.
New Hampshire State House
107 North Main Street
Concord, NH 03301-4951