Did feds get it wrong on N.H. economy?
Federal statistics that show New Hampshire's economy to have grown at a slower pace last year than every other state in New England are probably in error, according to at least one New Hampshire economist.The U.S. Department of Commerce earlier this week released preliminary data for U.S. economic growth in 2010, which ranked New Hampshire among the bottom 10 states for economic growth last year.According to the figures, New Hampshire's gross domestic product grew 1.3 percent from 2009 to 2010, which was just half the national rate of 2.6 percent, and significantly lower than the 3.4 percent average growth for all of New England.Growth of just 1.3 percent would land the Granite State in 43rd place nationally for overall growth. Elsewhere in New England, figures show Massachusetts' GDP grew at the fourth-highest rate in the country, at 4.2 percent; Vermont (10th), 3.2 percent; Connecticut (12th), 3.1 percent; Rhode Island (18th), 2.8 percent; and Maine (27th), 2.1 percent.But because these figures contradict other indicators of New Hampshire's economy, they likely add up to an estimating error, said economist Russ Thibeault, president of Applied Economic Research in Laconia. "The number makes us look worse than we are," he said.He points to growth in exports, added manufacturing jobs, and New Hampshire's unemployment rate - which, at 4.9 percent, is New England's lowest - as indicators that the state's economy is faring better than the Commerce Department numbers suggest. "These are estimates, and there's a margin of error that you have to apply to the estimates," said Thibeault. "This is the only economic indicator that I can think of wherein New Hampshire is not outperforming the other states."The figures also broke down fluctuations in state GDP year over year by industry. Figures show significant growth in durable-goods manufacturing, which grew by nearly one percentile over 2009, and health care and social assistance, which grew 0.48 percent.The industry-specific statistics also show New Hampshire's real estate sector to have dipped by 1.64 percent from 2009 to 2010, which - if correct - is the most significant drop in the nation. This seems suspect to Thibeault, who collects information on the state real estate transfer tax, which he said was down "only a tiny bit" and said that real estate data was fairly stable last year. "I believe, on almost all major economic indicators, that we're outperforming the rest of New England," said Thibeault. "Everything's not perfect, but we're doing well as a state." -- KATHLEEN CALLAHAN/NEW HAMPSHIRE BUSINESS REVIEW