The North Country Economic Index (NCEI) is a quarterly economic report to gauge the performance of the economy in the northern rural New Hampshire, which currently includes Coös County. The NCEI is released four times a year – in March for Winter (December, January and February), in June for Spring (March, April and May), in September for Summer (June, July and August), and in December for Autumn (September, October and November).
NCEI also tracks the economic performance of the State of New Hampshire for the purposes of comparison. Posting county and state indicators side by side makes it clear how the county’s economy fares in comparison to the state’s economy. This State Index is constructed using the same methodology and component indicators used in the construction of the County Index so that the two Indexes can be directly comparable.
The Coos economy showed signs of stabilization after declining last year. The County Index ticked up from the prior quarter for the first time since Fall 2013. Although the economic activity level was still down from the same time a year earlier, the pace of declines was the slowest in a year on a year-over-year basis. The boost came from the tourism sector. More travelers came to the region and spent more; the year-over-year percent increase in the average Saturday vehicle traffic counts was the highest since the Great Recession and the year-over-year percent increase in spending at lodgings was also the highest since Fall 2013. However, the rest of the economy struggled. The goods-producing sector weakened further; industrial electricity sales marked a double-digit decline compared to the same period a year ago. The labor market contracted; wages and salaries decreased for the fifth consecutive quarter on a year-over-year basis. This declining job opportunities in the County appeared to have encouraged its residents to find jobs from outside the region; the pace of decreases in the number of employed residents was the slowest since Summer 2013. Although wages and salaries and number of employed residents are both labor market indicators, the latter is by place of residence while the former is by place of work. The County’s housing market saw signs of stabilization after a year of declines in home prices; the pace of declines in median home prices fell to a single digit on a year-over-year basis after marking three consecutive double-digit declines, and the volume of home sales increased two straight quarters.
The economic activity surpassed the pre-recession level in New Hampshire. The State Index surpassed an index of 100 for the first time since the Great Recession. Four out of the five component indicators either exceeded or reached the pre-recession level, an index of 100. The labor market strengthened; the number of employed residents was higher than any point since the Great Recession. The tourism sector remained strong; both the average Saturday vehicle traffic counts and spending at lodgings were up from the same period a year earlier. The state’s housing market data appeared to have heated up again; the volume of home sales increased two consecutive quarters after declining two quarters in a row and the pace of increases in median home prices rebounded after falling four straight quarters. Three of the four state leading indicators remained up.