First published in New Hampshire Business Review, December 15, 2023
For the last 60 years, New Hampshire has relied on relatively high population growth to fuel its economic expansion. In the 1960s and 1990s, the state’s population grew by an average of over 12,000 people per year. During the 1970s and 1980s, that figure rose to more than 18,000 people per year.
Migration was a significant component of that growth. Research from University of New Hampshire professor Ken Johnson, published in October 2023, identified that a majority of New Hampshire’s residents were not born in the state, but moved here from another state or country. That contrasts with the statistics for the nation overall, as well as the combined figure for the New England states, where more than half of residents were born in their home state.
Since 2000, New Hampshire’s population growth has slowed. About 8,000 people were added to the population each year from 2000 to 2010, and population growth averaged only about 6,000 people per year from 2010 to 2020. That slowing growth reflects both migration patterns and demographic changes.
The New Hampshire Fiscal Policy Institute had the opportunity to present at the NH Songa conference on Nov. 15. The conference, spearheaded by Jean Hakuzimana and supported by the Greater Concord Chamber of Commerce, highlighted the role of immigrants in New Hampshire’s labor force and sought to connect potential employees to employers looking for skilled workers.
The NHFPI research presented at the conference showed the increasing importance of migrants, particularly international migrants, to New Hampshire’s workforce growth. Annual estimates of population changes published by the U.S. Census Bureau indicate more than half of New Hampshire’s population growth from 2010 to 2022 was due to migration from other countries.
During this period, migration from other states varied. While domestic migration to New Hampshire has been strong since the COVID-19 pandemic began, net domestic outmigration estimates from a decade earlier provide a reminder that people may not always move from other states to New Hampshire in greater numbers than they move away. Also, from 2017 to 2022, deaths outnumbered births each year in New Hampshire as the state’s population continued to age.
International migration has also varied, but has been consistently positive during the last dozen years. With more than twice as many job openings as unemployed workers in New Hampshire thus far in 2023, employers will need the skills of international migrants, as well as affordable and suitable housing for new residents to live in, to keep the state’s economy moving forward.
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.