""IHS Global Insight's"":http://www.ihs.com/products/global-insight/index.aspx examination of presidential swing states continued Thursday with a look at New Hampshire's relatively shaky economy.[IMAGE]
Growth performance in the Granite State has been mostly unimpressive. The state's 0.4 percent average job gain for the first two quarters of the year included payroll shrinkage across a number of sectors, including manufacturing, retail trade, finance, administrative support, and healthcare.
There are a few bright spots to point to, however. Net gains of 700 positions in wholesale trade and 500 in professional, scientific, and technical services provided a boost to New Hampshire's labor market.
Other economic indicators were also positive, with the state jobless rate falling 0.2 percentage points in 2012 as of the end of the year's second quarter. Monthly initial claims for unemployment insurance in the state have also trended downward in 2012, falling to 1,300 as of June. IHS said these samples of data ""paint a picture of an economy that is improving, albeit at a very sluggish pace, compared to what we observed here through most of 2011.""
While the economy is showing signs of improvement, home prices have yet to reflect that. The seasonally adjusted FHFA purchase-only index slipped 0.6 percent in first-quarter 2012 and was more or less flat year-over-year.[COLUMN_BREAK]
In addition, the National Association of Realtors' median price index for the Manchester-Nashua metro Ã¢â‚¬" often used as a measure of prices in New Hampshire's real estate market Ã¢â‚¬" opened the year with a 0.3 percent year-over-year decline.
Despite the flatness in home prices, IHS' latest forecasts for the state call for a gradual pickup in sales activity, which should provide a boost to prices. Single-family housing starts in the Granite State have trended upward over the past year, with the state opening 2012 with a 28 percent year-over-year gain in the second quarter. The multifamily market hasn't fared quite as well, however, with starts falling nearly two-thirds year-over-year as of second-quarter 2012.
""Looking ahead, the path to complete recovery in the New Hampshire residential real estate market will be a long one. Home construction activity is expected to pick up considerably over the next few years Ã¢â‚¬" our forecasts call for average growth in total housing starts of 20 percent per year during the 2012-17 period, but will be unable to recoup its previous peak anytime soon,"" IHS said in its report.
IHS added that the near-term outlook for home prices is ""a bit gloomy,"" and the company does not expect median prices to return to their peak until 2019.
As far as labor, IHS forecasts predict that New Hampshire's private-sector payrolls will expand 1.8 percent between Q2 2012 and Q2 2013. The state unemployment rate is expected to remain largely unchanged at approximately 5 percent through the middle of 2013, its progress hindered by the labor force's expansion.
Although the Granite State has only four electoral votes to offer in the presidential race, it's still an important battleground for both major party candidates. The state has seen visits in September from both Vice President Joe Biden and U.S. Representative and vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan as the parties try to shore up support among New Hampshire's many undeclared voters.