As the economy has been growing rapidly and thousands of jobs have gone unfilled, the federal government has been paying New Hampshire to pay people not to work. Gov. Chris Sununu announced on May 18 that New Hampshire will no longer participate in this counterproductive program as of June 19, but instead will begin paying the unemployed to find jobs. 

Had an unforeseen catastrophe wiped out employers en masse and permanently erased thousands of jobs, a case could be made for raising and extending aid to the unemployed. But that didn’t happen. 

The economy took a serious hit last March and April, but the economy has been recovering, with accompanying job growth, since last May. 

New Hampshire now has more than 30,000 job openings, an amount comparable to the number of openings before the pandemic. Instead of a shortage of jobs, the state has a severe shortage of people looking for work. 

As we wrote before the governor made his announcement, there appear to be three primary factors contributing to the state’s labor force shortage this spring. One is that thousands of people remain afraid of catching COVID-19. Another is the switch to remote and hybrid schooling, which has caused some parents, particularly mothers, to drop out of the workforce. The other is the additional federal unemployment benefits. 

The $300 in additional unemployment benefits (previously $600) was money added to existing unemployment benefits. In addition to receiving this extra federal money, unemployed Granite Staters have had their benefits extended. 

Under state law, benefits run out after 26 weeks. To accommodate what was expected to be a prolonged recession, benefits have been extended for more than twice as long as would otherwise be allowed.

The average weekly unemployment benefit in New Hampshire this April was $277. The state’s maximum weekly benefit is $427. The additional $300 a week brings the average benefit to $577 and the maximum to $727. 

For a 40-hour work week, those benefits would amount to $14.43 and $18.18 an hour, respectively.

The prolonged job drought for which these benefits were intended never materialized. Instead of providing aid to cover people’s basic living expenses amid a shortage of jobs, the state has been paying thousands of people not to work amid a surplus of jobs. 

In addition to ending the state’s participation in this federal pay-people-not-to-work program, Gov. Sununu announced that he would use $10 million in federal relief money to offer unemployed people signing bonuses once they have found a job and kept it.

The state will give people $1,000 for finding a full-time job and holding it for eight weeks, or $500 for a part-time job. People making $25 an hour or more will not be eligible. 

Given that this money has to be spent on COVID relief, it makes sense to create incentives to move people from the unemployment rolls to paid work.

The pandemic shrank New Hampshire’s already undersized labor force. A shortage of workers is causing serious problems for employers and threatens to slow the state’s recovery. Using financial incentives to address that problem is a legitimate use of federal COVID relief funds, and one that helps the state as a whole while also helping the unemployed find work.

The state Senate on Thursday voted to repeal two state laws that unconstitutionally exclude religious schools from participating in state education tuitioning programs. Both bills were previously approved by the House.

House Bill 282 repeals the state’s prohibition (in RSA 193:1) on religious schools participating in town tuition programs. 

State law allows local governments to assign students to a non-public school when the resident district lacks a public school of the same grade span. A town that has no high school, for example, can pay a private high school to take the town’s students. 

However, the law forbids religious schools from participating in these tuition programs. But the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2019 in Espinoza v. Montana Department of Revenue that such exclusions are unconstitutional because they deprive religious institutions of equal treatment solely by virtue of their religious status. 

A state may not exclude religious schools from a public benefit simply because they are religious schools. 

“A State need not subsidize private education. But once a State decides to do so, it cannot disqualify some private schools solely because they are religious,” the court held.

Quoting a similar previous case, Trinity Lutheran v. Comer, the court pointed out that the “Free Exercise Clause, which applies to the States under the Fourteenth Amendment, ‘protects religious observers against unequal treatment’ and against ‘laws that impose special disabilities on the basis of religious status.’”

Another state law allows school districts to send students to public schools and public academies if those students are determined to have suffered a “manifest educational hardship” at their assigned school. It also excludes “sectarian” schools. 

Senators on Thursday passed House Bill 388, which would allow districts to send students in these circumstances to private as well as public schools. The bill also strikes the word “sectarian” from the statute, thus incorporating religious schools into the program. 

Critics have said that these bills violate the First Amendment’s required separation of church and state and amount to a giveaway to religious schools. The truth is precisely the opposite. 

The state is forbidden by the U.S. Constitution from denying religious institutions from participating in an otherwise neutral program, including town tuition contracting, solely because those institutions are religious. The existing laws, not the bills, are in violation of the Constitution. 

The effect of House Bills 282 and 388 is to ensure that these laws governing school tuition contracts are constitutional. 

In late April, New Hampshire was No. 1 in the nation in the percentage of distributed vaccines administered. Nearing mid-May, the state has dropped to 24th (80%). 

As those who were most eager to get vaccinated have done so, the number of people signing up for their first dose has fallen sharply. Though Becker’s Hospital Review reports that 59% of the population has received at least one dose as of May 14, only 35% has been fully vaccinated. 

This slowdown in vaccine demand creates a public health concern because it threatens to prolong the spread of the pandemic.

The state has been encouraging people to get vaccinated for months. It has initiated a public awareness campaign with the message that getting vaccinated protects you and others. This has been the standard public messaging for COVID-19 vaccination campaigns. But recent research suggests that it’s not very effective at convincing those who remain reluctant to get vaccinated.

A recent YouGov poll found that 63% of Americans who do not plan to get vaccinated think it’s safe to gather indoors with other unvaccinated people without wearing a mask. A campaign that focuses on telling people they and their loved ones will be safer if vaccinated won’t resonate with unvaccinated people who already think they’re safe.  

Shift to incentives and a positive message

A better vaccination campaign would offer a combination of fun incentives and positive messages. 

A UCLA study found that people respond to cash and lifestyle incentives. Offering between $25-$100 raised people’s willingness to get the vaccine by between 13-19%. Cash was more effective with Democrats than Republicans.

Telling people that they won’t have to wear a mask after they get vaccinated also was effective at changing minds. For all respondents, the percentage who said they were more likely to get a vaccine rose by 13 points, from 50% to 63%. For Republicans, the gain was 18 points, from 35% to 53%.

That’s one reason the CDC’s newly announced guidance that vaccinated people don’t have to wear masks is so important. Requiring people to continue masking in public after vaccination undermines the government’s message that vaccination will make them safer and bring a return to pre-pandemic life. 

This confusing messaging is prevalent in New Hampshire. Dover, which has a public mask mandate, tells residents that they must continue masking after getting vaccinated. 

Its guidance reads: 

“WILL I BE ABLE TO STOP WEARING A MASK AND SOCIAL DISTANCING IF I GET THE VACCINE?

“No.”

Portsmouth and Nashua are among the New Hampshire municipalities that continue to mandate mask-wearing in public, including outdoors, which undercuts the state’s vaccine messaging. 

Instead of communicating the depressing, negative message that vaccination offers no escape from mask mandates and other government controls, government ought to be sending a message of hope and joy while offering people fun incentives to get the shot.  

Yes, the caveat is that businesses, local governments and other organizations might continue to require masks indoors for the time being. But governments aren’t effectively communicating that this should be a temporary, transitional practice rather than a permanent one.

A few jurisdictions, however, have tried creative, incentive-based initiatives to encourage vaccination, and the results are encouraging.

An Erie County, N.Y., program that offered free local craft beer and a pint glass to those who showed up to get vaccinated at a local brewery resulted in more vaccinations in one day than all of the county’s first-dose clinics for the previous week, The Buffalo News reported. 

New Jersey is partnering with the Brewers Guild of New Jersey to provide a free beer for anyone who gets vaccinated in May. 

Ohio is giving away $1 million each to five newly vaccinated people via a lottery, plus college scholarships to five students. 

Alabama is holding a mass vaccination event at the Talladega Superspeedway and letting people do two laps around the speedway (behind a pace car) after getting their shots. 

There is good evidence that unvaccinated people respond more to incentives such as free cash and beer — and the lifting of mask requirements — than to New Hampshire’s current messaging. The state could produce better results by changing its vaccine marketing as soon as possible to do the following:

  1. Partner with willing craft breweries, wineries, distilleries, restaurants, etc. to offer freebies in exchange for getting a vaccine. Businesses hard hit by the pandemic — such as movie theaters and restaurants — might make good partners. The state is receiving another $1.5 billion in federal COVID relief funds. Using some of that money to boost the state’s vaccination rate by partnering with local businesses to offer beer, coffee, doughnuts or movie tickets to reluctant residents would be a cost-effective investment in speeding the end of the pandemic. 
  1. Start communicating to people that mask-wearing and other restrictions, at least in public spaces and especially outdoors, can end when enough people get vaccinated. The confusing messaging on masking is suppressing interest in vaccination. A clear, positive message, effectively communicated, can help to reverse that. 

The state has both a public-health and an economic interest in bringing the vaccination rate up to the highest possible level. Giveaways and better messaging won’t convince everyone to get a vaccine, but there is evidence that they can produce a large enough change on the margins to make a significant difference. Available evidence suggests that this would be more effective than the standard messaging being used by New Hampshire and most other states. 

As a few lawmakers engaged in a publicity stunt last Saturday to press for a state-imposed $15 minimum wage, New Hampshire employers were raising wages and offering cash incentives in desperate efforts to attract workers.

A Portsmouth restaurant is hiring line cooks for $22 an hour, with a $500 signing bonus. A Salem cafe is offering up to $22 an hour and a $600 signing bonus.

The pandemic has worsened New Hampshire’s already challenging labor shortage as thousands have dropped out of the workforce for a variety of COVID-related reasons. Employers have responded by raising pay.

Average hourly earnings in New Hampshire are up more than $2 an hour, coming to an increase of $87 a week, since last March, state data show.

And still, thousands who left the workforce when the pandemic hit are staying home.

There are 28,600 fewer people in New Hampshire’s workforce than there were a year ago, though thousands more jobs are available.

Federal data show 33,000 job openings in the state as of this past December, the latest month for which official data are available, according to New Hampshire Employment Security. That’s up from 31,000 the year before.  

“If you looked at the job openings line, you wouldn’t detect that there was a pandemic,” Annette Nielsen, economist at New Hampshire Employment Security, said in an interview.

“My analysis is that it’s definitely the labor force participation rate, it’s down by a couple of points and that’s definitely the big reason” for the labor shortage, Nielsen said.

There is no single cause of this reluctance to rejoin the workforce. Several circumstances are working together.

One factor cited by employers is the $300 increase in federal unemployment benefits. 

In fact, the co-owner of the restaurant where the lawmakers held their minimum wage publicity stunt, Madear’s Southern Eatery & Bakery in Pembroke, told the New Hampshire Union Leader that the extra federal money was keeping people on the sidelines.

“It’s also the idea with stimulus and the unemployment extension, that does not help at all,” said Robb Curry, the progressive activist and restaurant owner.

About 4.6 million Americans dropped out of the labor force last year for COVID-related reasons, according to a May analysis from Bank of America economists.

That analysis concludes that extended Unemployment Insurance benefits and fear of Covid are the top two factors depressing labor market participation.

“Our estimates suggest that those who previously made less than $32,000 would be better off in the near term to collect UI benefits than work,” the analysis concluded.

The previous $600 additional unemployment benefit “definitely would be for some people an incentive to decide not to work,” Nielsen said. 

The current $300 in additional benefits would not be as strong a disincentive to work, she said, however she noted that its effects could be larger in New Hampshire, where the workforce is older. One fifth of New Hampshire’s labor force was between the ages of 55 and 64 in 2009. By 2019, it was up to a fourth, or more than 130,000 employees.

“The thing is that there are a lot of people in New Hampshire aged 55 to 64, so if you change that just a little it can make a big difference,” she said. 

A high proportion of New Hampshire’s labor force qualifies for Social Security, even Medicare (starting at age 65), so an additional $300 can tip the scale toward not working, she said. 

Then there were school closures. In states where schools went remote, women dropped out of the labor force at much larger rates.

It’s not clear how much each factor (fear of COVID, higher unemployment benefits, remote schooling) has contributed to the lower labor participation rate. But it is clear that reluctance to return to work is COVID-related and continuing.

New Hampshire unemployment claims remain well above their pre-pandemic levels, state data show. In February of 2020, individuals filed 15,068 weeks’ worth of benefits claims. That number rose to 58,630 one month later. This march, it was 59,313.

Unemployment claims have remained stubbornly high — at roughly four times the pre-pandemic rate — since last November. 

With COVID cases falling and the economy booming again, the most significant drag on New Hampshire’s economy is the reluctance of thousands of people to return to work. 

There is no quick fix, but a few developments could help. One is the state’s return to a work-search requirement for unemployment benefits. Another is getting all schools and summer camps fully reopened. 

But probably the largest single factor would be hitting the vaccination threshold at which COVID spread collapses. That’s around approximately 70-80% of the population, though estimates vary.

Israel, with more than 70% of its population fully vaccinated, seems to have subdued the virus. 

With the virus controlled via vaccination, all of the factors keeping people from returning to work vanish. 

On April 29, Gov. Chris Sununu announced that the state’s long list of mandated COVID-19 restrictions for various industries will expire on May 7, to be replaced by a Universal Best Practices Guidance.

This is a welcome and long overdue change, which the Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy advocated in our reopening guidelines on April 30th — of 2020. 

Almost exactly a year later, the state is finally switching from a set of strict mandates to a set of recommended best practices for all industries. 

As we wrote last April;

To slow the spread of the virus and avoid overwhelmed hospitals, it isn’t necessary for the state to dictate which industries get to stay open. It’s necessary only for people to behave in ways that suppress the spread.

Dividing businesses by industry and ordering whole sectors closed forces many businesses to shut down even though they could operate with minimal risk by adopting and enforcing effective mitigation practices. A better framework would be “safe” vs. “unsafe” practices.

Under a safe practices model, a business would risk closure only if it couldn’t enforce strict mitigation protocols such as social distancing, surface disinfecting, and mask wearing. There is no justification for closing a business that can enforce such protocols, regardless of its industry.

Rather than the governor dictating which industries can and can’t open, a safe practices model would encourage and reward responsible behavior, including the widespread adoption of rigorous safety protocols throughout the economy.

One important reason for preferring guidance to mandates is that COVID-19 is a new virus that did not come with a long history of study by researchers. Epidemiologists and other experts weren’t quite sure how best to slow the spread, as became obvious when numerous health organizations, government agencies and medical professionals offered different prescriptions for handling the virus. 

Organizations needed the flexibility to adapt to rapidly changing information and guidance. 

Mandated behaviors restrict that flexibility. And they can be extremely harmful when wrong. Just ask the families of the thousands of New York nursing home residents who died as a result of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s order to move infected COVID-19 patients from hospitals to nursing homes. Or the millions of students (and their families) who suffered academic and financial losses because of schools that stayed closed long after it was clear they could reopen safely. 

Instead of ordering organizations to adopt rigid practices that might or might not work as intended, the state’s new guidance educates managers about basic best practices that can be adopted in multiple environments and situations. 

Even so, it fails to incorporate some of the latest research.

For instance, the guidance states that organizations should:

“Work to maintain a distance of at least 6 feet or more of physical separation between people or related groups when possible.”

Not only has the six-foot rule never been supported by a strong body of research proving its effectiveness (the World Health Organization has always recommended three feet, not six), a new MIT study concludes that it is largely useless and gives a false sense of security.

The study concludes that occupancy and time in a room are what matter, not distance, because the virus is carried on tiny air particles that circulate throughout an entire indoor space under normal ventilation scenarios. 

Using a school classroom with 19 students as a case study, the authors wrote:

“For normal occupancy and without masks, the safe time after an infected individual enters the classroom is 1.2 h for natural ventilation and 7.2 h with mechanical ventilation.”

By failing to incorporate the latest research, the state’s guidance could recommend practices that are not effective, while not informing managers of practices that are more effective. 

Because these are recommendations and not mandates, however, managers are free to adopt on their own initiative practices that are guided by newer research. 

The state’s switch from mandates to guidance is a good development. Had it come earlier, perhaps some of the economic damage from restrictions on businesses could have been avoided. 

Gov. Chris Sununu lifted the state’s mask mandate on April 16, and much hand-wringing ensued. And scolding. And partisan attacks. 

New Hampshire Public Radio noted, with apparent worry, that the hospitalization rate was higher than it was when the mandate was issued last November. 

State Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley tweeted, “When Republicans get elected, people die.”

A University of New Hampshire poll released April 21 found that 43% of Granite Staters supported lifting the mandate, while 48% opposed. 

But the data support the governor’s decision. 

If a statewide mask mandate had been justified to preserve hospital capacity and limit deaths through the winter, that justification receded with the rest of the second wave. The numbers just don’t support the continuation of an emergency order commanding people to wear masks when outside and in public spaces.

Keep in mind that the state mandate was of its highest utility primarily in outdoor public spaces (where infection risk is extremely low) and in indoor places of public accommodation where business owners were not already requiring masks (which was a small minority of businesses).

On November 19, when the governor issued the mandate, new cases had been rising for three months, and rising sharply for several weeks. Confirmed hospitalizations were rapidly approaching their spring peak. Signs were that the expected second wave was on its way. 

By April 15, when Sununu announced that the mandate would not be extended, the second wave — never as severe as feared — had long since subsided. 

There were 108 hospitalizations on November 19 when the mandate was issued. There were 132 on April 15, when the governor announced the mandate wold be lifted. There were 112 on April 23, a week after the mandate was lifted. 

Throughout the pandemic, the state prepared to manage 1,000 hospitalized COVID-19 patients. We never approached that number. The highest daily count was 334 on January 1. 

There is no shortage of hospital beds or ICU beds in the state. 

Deaths, the most important metric, have plummeted since January. 

Deaths peaked at a seven-day average of 11.7 on December 26. They hit a seven-day average of 11.6 on January 7. Since then, they have fallen dramatically. 

The seven-day average was two on March 5 and has been below that ever since. It stood at 1.1 on April 15. It was at 1 on April 18, the last day for which the state has posted data.

Switching from masks to vaccines

Without a vaccine, COVID-19 cases were a more important metric. With a vaccine, deaths is the most important metric, with hospitalizations second. Vaccination dramatically reduces both of those outcomes, as New Hampshire’s data show. As vaccinations have risen, deaths have plummeted and hospitalizations have fallen sharply. 

Remember “flatten the curve?” The point of state interventions all along has been to preserve hospital capacity and prevent mass deaths. It was never to prevent all hospitalizations and all deaths, impossible tasks.

Before a vaccine was available, the state had only very crude tools with which to try to accomplish its goals. Mask mandates, travel restrictions and business closures were the tools at hand, and states used them. 

The vaccine is a far more powerful tool for achieving the same ends. That’s why the governor has shifted the focus away from crude restrictions on behaviors to the encouragement of widespread vaccination. 

Ending the mandate doesn’t immediately end masking. Businesses and municipalities may continue to maintain their own policies as we move toward ever higher vaccination rates. What it does is encourage vaccination in two important ways. 

  1. It shows people the connection between vaccination and the end of emergency restrictions such as mask mandates.
  2. It demonstrates faith in individuals to make their own decisions, which builds good will and trust, the shortage of which has made fighting COVID-19 more challenging than it should have been.

The focus on vaccination, with top priority given to the elderly, already has paid tremendous dividends. New Hampshire was the first New England state to make half of its population eligible for the vaccine. It now leads the nation in the percentage of adults who have received a first dose, at more than 70%.  

The results are so remarkable that on April 23, Andy Slavitt, White House senior advisor for COVID response, tweeted high praise for New Hampshire: 

8 states have now vaccinated more than 60% of adults with a first shot.

New Hampshire  (>70%!)

CT

Mass

NM

Maine

NJ

VT

Hawaii

All of them have turned the corner on the number of cases & hospitalizations.

Well done. Let’s all get there.

We will get there, but not by giving people a disincentive to vaccinate, which is what prolonged mask mandates do. We will get there by encouraging vaccination and showing how it paves the path back to normalcy.

As Derek Thompson of The Atlantic wrote this week,” as more and more of the population is vaccinated, governments need to give Americans an off-ramp to the post-pandemic world.”

Showing people that they can trade masks for vaccines does this. 

The Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy presents a Libertas Virtual Event with distinguished historian Wilfred McClay, at 4 p.m. on May 3, for a discussion of his new book, “Land of Hope: An Invitation to the Great American Story.”

McClay, the G.T. and Libby Blankenship Chair in the History of Liberty at the University of Oklahoma, is the author of numerous books on American history. He has also served as a member of the National Council on the Humanities and a senior scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. 

In “Land of Hope,” McClay offers an authoritative, readable, comprehensive study of America’s story that gives readers a balanced picture of America’s past. 

The book equips young readers for the privileges and responsibilities of citizenship in American society, and provides them with a vivid and enduring sense of belonging to one of the greatest enterprises in human history: the United States of America.

It serves as a counter to the prevailing academic trend, which reflects the outlook of radical critics of American society who portray American history as one dark tale of never-ending oppression and hopelessness. 

Reservations are available for this event for the special, patriotic price of $17.76, and can be made on the Bartlett Center’s support page, here. This will be a Zoom webinar. Proceeds support the work of the Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy, a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt non-profit organization. 

This is the final webinar in the Josiah Bartlett Center’s Libertas Virtual Event Series, sponsored by AT&T, Sig Sauer, and Bank of America.

Thank you to our sponsors:

The 2022-23 state budget passed in the state House of Representatives on Wednesday would reduce state general and education fund spending by 1.4% below actual 2020-21 state spending. The reduction from what legislators approved in the last session is even larger. 

There is always some discrepancy between legislative appropriations and actual spending, as governors make adjustments when managing state operations. In the 2020-21 budget cycle, Gov. Chris Sununu took emergency measures, including a hiring freeze, to save money after the pandemic caused a dip in revenues last spring. 

As a result, the state has spent less money in the current budget cycle than legislators allotted. The 2022-23 budget approved by the House Republican majority Wednesday spends 1.4% less than actual state spending in the current budget (which still has a few months to go).

But when compared to total appropriations as approved by the previous, Democratic-controlled Legislature, the reduction totals 2.3% of general and education fund spending.

The general and education funds are the portions of the state budget funded by state tax and fee revenues. They do not include federal funding.

On taxes, the budget:

  • Reduces the Business Enterprise Tax rate from 0.6% to 0.55% and increases the filing threshold to $250,000 for both of the tax’s two threshold levels, gross receipts and enterprise tax base. Current thresholds are $200,000 for gross receipts and $100,000 for enterprise tax base. The budget thereby reduces both the BET rate and the number of businesses that have to pay it;
  • Reduces the Business Profits Tax from 7.7% to 7.6%;
  • Phases out the Interest & Dividends Tax by 1% a year over five years;
  • Reduces the Meals & Rooms tax from 9% to 8.5%;
  • Changes the triggers for unemployment insurance tax rate adjustments. Current law triggers rate cuts of 1% if the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund reaches $275 million and 1.5% if it reaches $300 million. Those triggers are raised to $350 million and $400 million, respectively.

Those are the top-line state spending and tax changes. Josiah Bartlett Center will have a more detailed breakdown of the budget next week. 

Join us to commemorate Tax Day this year with Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist!

The Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy is pleased to present a virtual conversation with Grover Norquist at noon, Tuesday, April 13.

We’ll discuss what’s going on with the push to raise taxes in Washington, and find out how New Hampshire’s tax advantage is under threat from other states.

This conversation is part of our Libertas Virtual Event Series sponsored by AT&T, Sig Sauer, and Bank of America.

Reservations are $25 and can be made on our Support page by clicking the selection for this event.

Thank you to our sponsors:


Raising New Hampshire’s minimum wage to $15 an hour would cost the state nearly 6,000 jobs and more than 9,000 residents, raise consumer prices, reduce economic output, and cause serious harm to small businesses and the leisure and hospitality industries, a new report from New Hampshire Employment Security concludes.  

The study, released Monday by the Labor Market Information Bureau, examined in detail how a minimum wage increase would affect employers and employees in the state, across all industries. It projected the impact of raising the minimum from $7.25 an hour to $9.50, then $12, then $15 by 2026. 

The findings show that, although some lower-wage employees would experience an increase in earnings, the overall economic impact on the state would be negative.

Among the report’s findings:

  • New Hampshire’s gross domestic product will be more than $800 million lower by 2031 than it would have been without a $15.00 minimum wage.
  • The state’s population will be 9,630 lower and its labor force will include 6,023 fewer individuals in response to a $15.00 minimum wage and the resulting diminished employment opportunities in the state.
  • Increases in personal income over the baseline forecast will peak at $873 million in the year the minimum wage reaches $15.00 but will decline in subsequent years in response to employment losses. The increase in personal income will, however, remain positive, and be $228 million above baseline forecast by 2031.
  • Workers in the lowest wage categories will see the largest increases in income but also experience the highest number of job losses in response to a $15.00 minimum wage.
  • Industries such as food services and drinking places, and other leisure and hospitality industries, as well as retail trade, are forecast to experience the largest job losses. These reductions in employment offset much of the benefits of increased wages for low-wage workers in those industries.
  • Aggregate price levels will increase by less than one percent across the New Hampshire economy in response to the $15.00 minimum wage, but specific industries most affected by the increase, such as the food services and drinking places industry (+7.0%), and the retail industry (+3.4%) will see substantial price increases.

Wage costs would hit some industries much harder than others, the report finds. Wage costs would rise by 1.4% in manufacturing, but 10.8% in accommodations, 18.6% in leisure and hospitality, and 20.1% in food service and drinking places.

On the economy as a whole, the study finds that “GDP will be lower in New Hampshire as a result of a $15.00 minimum wage than it would have been without the minimum wage increase, by approximately $806 million dollars by the end of the forecast period in 2031.”

If the state adopts a $15 minimum wage, the study predicts that over the next decade retail prices would increase by 2.41%, accommodations prices by 3.14% and food service & drinking places prices by 6.86%.

The report also warns that a $15 minimum wage would reduce teen employment, which could have a broad cultural and economic impact in New Hampshire.

“New Hampshire has traditionally had among the highest percentage of teenage and youth under the age of 22 participating in the labor force of any state in the nation. Opportunities for work for young people help teach solid work habits at an early age and have been important in developing New Hampshire’s reputation for having a high-quality workforce. A high minimum wage will reduce employment opportunities for youth, exacerbating trends in the decline of the youth labor force and further disadvantaging industries that are already most affected by the minimum wage hike (food services, retail, recreation) that rely on youth labor.”

The report finds that “the negative job impacts resulting from a minimum wage increase are concentrated in the lowest wage occupations, precisely the occupations that a minimum wage increase is designed to benefit.”

Furthermore, job losses for the poorest fifth of the population would not be distributed evenly throughout the state. Grafton, Coos, Rockingham and Carroll counties would experience larger job losses among their lowest-income residents, the study found.

Overall, the study concludes that raising New Hampshire’s minimum wage to $15 an hour would make the state poorer and less populous than it would have been without the minimum wage increase. Those are results lawmakers should strive to avoid, not achieve.