FILE - Portsmouth, NH

Pedestrians stroll through downtown Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

A state economist recently told a Chamber of Commerce audience that New Hampshire’s economy could proceed at a slower pace in 2020, primarily due to less hiring by businesses.

Brian Gottlob, who is director of the state’s Economic and Labor Market Information Bureau and principal of PolEcon Research, a New Hampshire an economic research firm, provided these insights during his keynote speech at the Dover Chamber of Commerce’s annual Economic Forecast breakfast.

He cited the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia’s economic index for New Hampshire showed a decline over the latter half of 2019.

“It’s not at a recession level, but it just indicates that economic activity has been slowing,” Gottlob said in an article posted on Fosters.com. “There’s just no way given our labor force that we’re growing.”

While consumer confidence appears to be on the increase across the country, Gottlob noted that many business sectors have not followed suit.

Final figures for 2019 will likely show hiring New Hampshire only growing by .8 percent, instead of the anticipated 1.4 or 1.5 percent; in 2020, it could be as low as .6 percent, Gottlob said.

“This is not something a lot of people want me to say, but honestly I think that’s the situation,” he said. “That’s not an indication that we’ll be in recession ... (but) hiring will be negative in 2020. That’s the big picture.”

The loss of manufacturing jobs in New Hampshire last year is part of a trend in declining business investment.

The key to innovation could be growing the labor force, which Gottlob called, “probably the fundamental issue New Hampshire will deal with … It’s probably the fundamental issue that New England will deal with.”

Both Rockingham and Strafford counties still appear to be strong economic drivers in the state.

“Over the last decade, this is really the region of the state that has really thrived,” he said.