Even without a recession, poverty and food insecurity impact Granite Staters

First published in New Hampshire Business Review, March 8, 2024

The United States appears to have avoided a recession following the swift rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic. In their latest projections, the U.S. Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the nonpartisan budgetary and macroeconomic analytical arm of the staff informing federal legislators, projects a slowdown in growth, but no recession in sight.

The CBO’s economic projections are not entirely positive.

They include a slowdown in inflation, with a high degree of certainty that levels will not return to the highs of 2022, as the CBO notes the supply-chain issues that drove much of that increase have resolved; the CBO does project that housing costs will continue to increase, however, even as interest rates are projected to start declining by late 2024. Growth in consumer spending, and the overall economy, is projected to be slower in 2024 and 2025 than last year, with an uptick in the unemployment rate, but nothing in the baseline forecast that would trigger a recession.

These indicators suggest the mix of economic conditions, as well as both monetary and fiscal policy, has left the economy in a relatively strong spot. Avoiding a recession is good news for Granite Staters, but that does not mean all are thriving.

Data released late last year indicated nearly 100,000 New Hampshire residents were in poverty, and about 35,000 households were food insecure (or, by a separate estimate, about 90,000 people) in recent years. Contrary to prior recessions, the policy response to the COVID-19 pandemic kept many residents out of poverty. Food insecurity was lower in the 2019-2021 period in New Hampshire than it was in the three years before the pandemic, although recent data suggests it may be increasing again as temporary food assistance and financial support provisions have expired.

Poverty in the state has declined overall in the most recent data relative to 10 years before, but it affects Granite Staters unevenly. Individuals with disabilities, single parents and Granite Staters identifying as Hispanic, Latino, Black or African American face much higher poverty rates than the population overall. Over the last 10 years, poverty rates have decreased for most groups, but have remained stable for older adults, and have increased for those with a high school degree or less.

Avoiding a recession has been helpful for the finances of all Granite Staters, but the end of pandemic-era supports and high housing costs still pose a risk to the economy, particularly to New Hampshire residents who face the most difficulty keeping food on the table or a roof over their heads.

Phil Sletten is research director for the NH Fiscal Policy Institute. The NHFPI Policy Memo is a partnership of the NH Fiscal Policy Institute and NH Business Review.