According to the New Hampshire Office of Energy and Planning, New Hampshire's school age and working age populations are expected to be smaller, while the state's elderly population will dramatically grow. These predictions come from the most recent population projections by the OEP. These projections are at the state and county level through 2040 and are done in five-year intervals and for five-year age groupings of the population to 85 and over.
To help you better “see” the numbers and understand what the data is signaling about our state’s future, the Center created an interactive visual aid through the software program Tableau. Please click here. You can look at changes in the working age population (25 to 69), children of school age (5 – 19), retirees (70+).
We carve the population up into these three groups for obvious reasons. Changes in the number of students in the K-12 education system will mirror the trend in the 5 to 19-year-old population. Additionally, New Hampshire employer will be interested in the outlook for the 25 to 69-year-old population, since this age category roughly describes the potential pool of workers from which they have to choose. Finally, changes in the 70-year-old and over population (“retirees”) will be important for public policy for different reasons including a growing demand for medical services, changes in housing preferences, and increased demands on pension programs, to name a few.
While the projections go out to 2040, we only look out the next ten years.
What major questions are raised by these population projections?
#1 - How will employers find additional workers, given that the working-age population is set to shrink by approximately 17,000 people?
As mentioned above, the 25 to 69-year old age group represents the labor force. Anecdotal evidence suggests that some employers are already having a difficult time in finding workers and this is during a 5-year time frame where the 25 to 69-year old population grew by about 9,000 people. How much more difficult will it be for employers to find qualified labor as this age group shrinks and will that cause employers to make investments elsewhere and/or leave the Granite State?
As the map on the Working Age tab depicts, this predicament will be most noticeable in New Hampshire’s rural counties (Coos, Grafton, Sullivan, Cheshire, Belknap, and Carroll).
#2 - What problems or opportunities, will smaller K-12 classrooms create?
As part of our annual update to What is NH, a survey of the major policy issues and critical questions shaping our state, the Center highlighted the fact that public school enrollment (elementary and secondary education) has steadily declined for most of the 21st century. According to the New Hampshire Department of Education, in school year 2009-2010, K-12 enrollment was nearly 191,000. Five school years later and there were roughly 12,000 fewer children enrolled, in a period in which the number of school aged children declined by roughly 16,000.
Looking forward, the number of school aged children is anticipated to decline by 14,000 over the coming decade. And if we use 2009/2010 through 2014/15 as a guide (that is for every decline in school aged children, there is .75 less kids enrolled in K-12), the 14,000 drop in school age children translates into about 10,000 fewer students in public elementary and secondary classrooms by 2025. Unlike the clear rural vs urban divide that is expected in the working age population, the expected reduction in the school-age population will be felt by every county outside of Strafford, Belknap, and Grafton.
#3 – What challenges and opportunities does the aging of the baby boomer population create?
The aging and retirement of the baby boomers will reshape the workplace, housing markets, and healthcare. As we have noted elsewhere, seniors will occupy a growing proportion of the state’s housing units, filling one in three units by 2025. The number of senior households in the state, both owners and renters, will nearly double by 2025. There is a general concern that the existing housing stock does not meet this emerging demand and could be a drag on the New Hampshire economy. Alternatively, the shifting demands in the housing market among seniors could be a source of economic energy.
Similarly, health systems and both public and private payers, are going to have to adapt to a changing demographic landscape. As we noted in our report on demographics and healthcare, Medicaid, the state/federal partnership that provides acute and long term care services for vulnerable populations in New Hampshire, currently allocates 25 percent of its total medical spending to those over 65. Assuming no significant changes to the services provided to that population, that percentage will increase to 52 percent by 2030. Private payers will see an equally seismic shift as the private pay population shrinks and is replaced by baby boomers who have aged into Medicare eligibility.