DIVER Commentary: Economy in New England is Strong

July 13, 2015

This week we look at trends in the DIVER Geo Score for the northeast United States and drill down into New England with a focus on New Hampshire and Vermont.

New England Economy is Outperforming Other Northeast Regions 

In last week’s Commentary, we published the most recent DIVER Geo Scores.  The New England States of New Hampshire (9.6), Vermont (9.2) and Massachusetts (8.8) have some of the highest economic scores in the country.  The continuing strength in the New England economies contrasts with the lagging economic scores for NY metro area and the Delmarva region.


The weakness in the NY metro area is due to significant underperformance in the New Jersey economy with the New York State economy slightly lagging national trends; these weaknesses are partially offset by recent improvements in Connecticut’s economy. (Because of its dependence on New York City, we view Connecticut more as part of NY Metro than New England.)

The economies of Virginia, Maryland and Delaware have been lagging for several years. 

While the economies of the New England States have outperformed on average, the individual States strength has been shifting.

In particular, since the beginning of 2012, the relative rankings of Vermont and New Hampshire have flipped (Vermont declining and New Hampshire improving).


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New Hampshire’s economy has shown greater improvement than Vermont’s in each of the three components of the DIVER Geo Score: income, housing and employment.

The improvement in New Hampshire has been most pronounced in the south-central portion of the State.  Stratford County, which is near Portsmouth and is home to the University of New Hampshire has the most improved DIVER Geo Score  (7.4-8.6) in the last year.  Belknap County on the south shore of Lake Winnipesaukee has also improved (7.1-7.9)


During the last year, the DIVER Geo Scores for 10 of Vermont’s 14 counties have declined.  The counties of the Northeast Kingdom (Essex, Orleans and Caledonia) have declined the most (7.4à5.7).   Lamoille (home to Stowe Mountain Resort) has also underperformed (8.7à7.1).  Vermont’s largest county, Chittenden (City of Burlington) remains strong (9.7).


Map of the Week:  Labor Force Underutilization

In a speech last week to the City Club of Cleveland, Federal Reserve chair Janet Yellen stated that “the lower level of the unemployment rate today probably does not fully capture the extent of slack remaining in the labor market…”, but noted “the pace of this decline (in labor force participation) has slowed since early last year”.   We addressed this issue in a recent Commentary.  In our Commentary, we drilled down to the State level and highlighted the leaders and laggards.

The map below displays State level labor force underutilization.


As with so many economic indicators on the Fed’s “dashboard”, the wide dispersion of labor slack across the nation makes her task more difficult.  The national average for labor underutilization is 11.6%; the worst State (Nevada) is 15.3%; and the best State (North Dakota) is 5.6%.  

Have a great week,

 Michael Craft, CFA

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