While there are many factors that shape the regional economy, population change is perhaps one of the most fundamental. Examining demographic shifts can help clarify our understanding of current and future economic challenges.

Over the last decade, the total population of Southwest NH shrank from 100,751 to 100,307, a loss of 444 people or just under 0.5%. The period between 2010 and 2020 saw the first decline in the region’s population since at least the latter half of the 20th century. The decline was due to both “natural decrease” (the number of deaths outnumbering the number of birth within the region) as well as domestic outmigration (people moving from the region to other parts of the state or country). See the post here for more information about these different components of population change.

This modest regional decrease in population occurred against a backdrop of positive yet slowing national growth. From 2010 to 2020, the U.S. population grew by 7.6 percent. Growth over preceding decade was 9.7 percent.

Population trends across the region were varied, with about half experiencing growth from 2010 to 2020 and half seeing a decline. Only 4 communities (Rindge, Stoddard, Surry, and Windsor) saw growth rates that exceeded the statewide average of 4.6 percent.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau, Decennial Census

The decline in the region’s population raises a number of economic challenges, the most prominent of which is likely workforce development. A shrinking population will limit employers’ ability to maintain or expand operations as an increasing portion of the current workforce reaches retirement age. The region will need new residents to fill these positions.