Russ Thibeault jokes about presenting forecasts in bad years where there were guns on the table and veiled threats he'd better say something good about the economy.
He didn't have to worry this year. Things are looking pretty good.
Despite a labor and housing shortage, New Hampshire's economy continues to chug along at the same rate as the rest of the country, growing 2.2 percent a year. The state added 8,000 jobs last year, with metropolitan Manchester picking up 1,400 of them, outpacing Nashua and the Seacoast, which both lost jobs.
During his lunchtime talk Thursday to the Greater Manchester Chamber, Thibeault used the latest edition of the chamber's annual magazine as a prop, borrowing its headline to send home his message about Manchester: "It's a dynamic city."
The founder and president of Applied Economic Research said he could not think of a time in his professional career when he was more optimistic about the future of Manchester, citing Millyard employers, entertainment venues and a concentrated workforce as reasons to tout the Queen City. Economic indicators for the local and national economy are in that sweet spot -- not too hot, not too cold -- and he sees no reason for that to change any time soon.
The pattern suggests it's not supposed to play out that way. Recessions have arrived at regular intervals at the end of each decade beginning in 1980, the Manchester native noted. But this time, even the longest recovery on record has yet to reveal an end point.
"I don't see any dark clouds that would cause me to be overly cautious," Thibeault said during the question and answer session that ended his talk at the Puritan Backroom Conference Center.
Most economists anticipate a continuation of moderate growth, stable interest rates and low inflation, Thibeault said. He joked that most economists are usually wrong and that he seldom offers such a rosy outlook.
"There are risks out there, the major one here in New Hampshire and nationally: labor availability to support growth," he said.
When one audience member asked Thibeault if he was blindsided by the mortgage crisis of 2007 and 2008 that fueled the last recession, he referenced a Union Leader interview from 2005 when he warned about the risk of borrowers buying houses with unconventional loans.
If you don't quality for a conventional mortgage, that should be a "red flag" that you perhaps can't afford that house, Thibeault told reporter Shawne K. Wickham.
That's unlikely to happen these days because the inventory of housing is so low, even well-qualified buyers are having a hard time finding homes to buy.
New Hampshire is adding about 3,500 new homes to the housing stock each year, when the market demand is calling for 15,000 to 20,000 -- meaning it will be several years before supply meets demand, Thibeault said.
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