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No surprise region lags in economy

This editorial appeared recently in the Brattleboro (Vt.) Reformer.

The New England Economic Partnership released a new report, stating that federal spending cuts and reduced consumer demand are slowing economic growth throughout New England.

That growth could be as low as 3 percent through 2017, which the partnership — a nonprofit that provides analyses and forecasts — said is less than what would even be considered moderate. On top of that, an average employment growth of 2 percent in the region will be below the national average.

New England’s unemployment rate is expected to decline gradually — from 6.7 percent in this year’s third quarter to 6.4 percent in late 2014 and to below 6 percent in the first quarter of 2016 — in part due to slow employment growth elsewhere in the region, according to a recent Associated Press report.

But there are bright spots to consider from the report, as well.

First and foremost, the region’s strongest economies will continue to be found in Vermont, New Hampshire and Massachusetts over the next four years.

Likewise, Massachusetts has already recovered jobs lost during the 18-month recession from December 2007 to June 2009.

“The greater Boston area has been a bright spot in the New England economy,” Ross Gittell, manager of the New England forecast, told The Associated Press, “leading the region in job growth and more than recovering the jobs lost in the recession.”

New Hampshire, meanwhile, may not reach its pre-recession job count until next spring.

Looking ahead to 2017, unemployment is expected to be lowest in New Hampshire (3.3 percent), with Vermont a close second (at 3.7 percent). Not bad, compared to the rest of the region: Maine, 6 percent; Rhode Island, 6. 1 percent; and Connecticut, 6.5 percent.

A few other statistics to consider:

• Regionally, the unemployment rate will be 5.4 percent by mid-2017, a “significant” decline from the peak of 8.7 percent in 2010.

• New Hampshire will enjoy the regions strongest annual average growth rate (1.8 percent); Maine will have the lowest at 0.7 percent.

Much of this news should come as no surprise. After all, we heard time and again as the nation was deep into the recession that much of New England was faring better than the rest of the country when it came to unemployment levels and other economic factors. The cost of weathering the storm better than others would come during recovery, as the region would ride the tail-end of the upward swing.

We don’t know about you, but when looking at many states that were faced with or are facing bankruptcy, we’ll take what we got. Not too bad, especially when you consider that in the midst of this economic crisis we had all the damage caused by the flooding brought by Tropical Storm Irene to deal with.

As one final element to the silver linings found in the New England Economic Partnership’s forecast, the housing market continues to perform well, as home prices and sales continue to rise, leading to boosts in construction and other related industries.

In all but one New England state housing prices are expected to remain below their peak levels. That one state expected to over-perform? Vermont.

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