The coronavirus lockdown of New Hampshire’s economy has put more than 100,000 Granite Staters officially out of work, the highest level since the state has been releasing the data.
On Tuesday, New Hampshire Employment Security reported the number of employed Granite Staters has fallen by 152,150 just since March, leaving the fewest number of workers in the New Hampshire workforce since May of 1994. The unemployment rate is a seasonally adjusted 16.3 percent, representing 101,490 people.
“This is the highest unemployment rate in the history of the series (seasonally adjusted data are available back to 1976). This was an increase of 13.9 percentage points from the March rate, which decreased to 2.4 percent after revision. The April 2019 seasonally adjusted rate was 2.5 percent,” NHES reports.
More than 182,000 Granite State workers have applied for new unemployment benefits in the past two months.
“The cumulative impact of new claims over the last eight weeks is frightening,” Laconia economist Russ Thibeault told the Union-Leader. “The New Hampshire economy is in a deep hole, and recovery has yet to begin.”
“A 16.3 percent unemployment rate is a huge number, and I would suggest that the bulk of that is hospitality employees,” says Mike Somers, president & CEO of the New Hampshire Lodging & Restaurant Association. “Keep in mind the hospitality industry has lost about $830 million in sales in 10 weeks. This is not sustainable.”
“We continue to urge Governor [Chris] Sununu to move more quickly on reopening. We would like to see lodging get to phase one and restaurants to phase two as soon as possible,” Somers said. “June 1 would be great.”
“I receive calls every day from businesses that are nearing the end of their wherewithal,” Sommers added. “Many of the smallest businesses are burning through retirement funds and more, and if we can’t get most of these businesses back online very soon, it will take the industry years to recover.”
New Hampshire has suffered the third-highest rate of job loss in the country, according to a ranking of the states by the data analysis site Wallethub. The number of unemployment claims as jumped 4473.62 percent since the lockdown began in March, they report.
The same day NHES released the jobless numbers, national retailer Pier One announced their intention to permanently close all 540 of their stores due to the impact of the coronavirus and the economic shutdown. There are six Pier One stores in New Hampshire.
Bruce Berke, New Hampshire state director of the National Federation of Independent Businesses, isn’t quite as gloomy as some members of the local business community.
“Obviously, that rate of unemployment is staggering and certainly very difficult for those who have lost their jobs,” he told NHJournal. “Small businesses are hurting and are as concerned about the current circumstances as anyone: employees, their families, and clearly their own livelihoods.”
But Berke sees hope on the horizon.
“With each passing day, New Hampshire is opening more and more of our economy. We can only hope this will bring some positive news to the tough times we have now.”
Somers, on the other hand, sees something else for the state’s restaurant business.
“We are already seeing 25+ year businesses close and give up. And after seeing what’s happened to the industry in the last couple of months, there is no reason to believe anyone will want to reopen in those spaces anytime soon.”
One of the challenges restaurants and other businesses face is the series of complex regulations they must navigate to open under Sununu’s lockdown orders.
“The state’s focus should be on helping businesses reopen in ways that improve safety, not on micromanaging them by imposing pages of inflexible regulations,” says Andrew Cline, executive director of the Josiah Bartlett Center. “We’re going to see more unnecessary business closures if the state continues to rely on regulations rather than guidance.”