New Hampshire’s jobless rate hit a record high with a new low.
The Granite State’s “preliminary seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for May 2023 was 1.9 percent,” New Hampshire Employment Security (NHES) reported Tuesday, a decline of 0.2 percent from April.
That 1.9 percent is the lowest jobless rate ever recorded in the state.
“New Hampshire’s economy is heating up just in time for the summer season,” Gov. Chris Sununu said in a statement. “With a #1 ranking for economic opportunity, record low unemployment, and no sales or income tax, New Hampshire is far and away the top state for families, employees, and businesses!”
According to NHES, the state’s total number of unemployed residents has fallen to 14,590, down 2,470 from a year ago, while the total labor force is 763,890.
Sununu isn’t the only person celebrating.
“Obviously, terrific news on the unemployment/jobless rate. Great to have people working and not to dealing with high rates of joblessness,” said Bruce Berke with the New Hampshire NFIB (National Federation of Independent Businesses). “New Hampshire has worked hard to position ourselves for the successful economic environment we are experiencing.”
But like many in the business community, Berke also noted the dark cloud inside this low-unemployment silver lining.
“With this success comes some ‘friendly fire’ in the economy which has everyone in the state focused on creating opportunities for our workforce in terms of housing and job training. These are the biggest challenges facing businesses looking for employees to meet the state’s level of demand.”
David Juvet with the Business and Industry Association (BIA) echoed his sentiment.
“The low unemployment rate reflects the strength of the New Hampshire economy but also is an indicator of the significant labor shortage that employers are dealing with. It will take time to correct the gap that currently exists between available jobs and available labor,” Juvet told NHJournal.
“BIA appreciates the bipartisan cooperation shown in passing a state budget that includes money for more housing development, increased child care opportunities, and training programs designed to better equip individuals for 21st-century jobs.”
State Senate President Jeb Bradley says the state is addressing the workforce housing issue, but more must be done at the local level.
“It’s good news for workers, definitely,” Bradley said of the record-low jobless rate. “But employers are in a bind. New Hampshire businesses need more workers, and workers need more housing that they can afford. That’s why we put more money in the budget for housing — a record amount. But we can only do so much at the state level. We don’t want a state mandate for affordable housing. The local communities are going to need to step up.”
Still, record-low unemployment and a growing population are problems they’d like to have across the line in the Bay State.
“Massachusetts officials like to cite the state’s strengths like robust tech, bioscience, and education sectors, but they should acknowledge the more than 110,000 residents that have packed up and left the Commonwealth for lower-cost states,” says Christopher Carlozzi, NFIB State Director in Massachusetts. “To compete with states like New Hampshire, legislators must address the out-of-control healthcare expenses, soaring energy prices, worst-in-the-nation unemployment insurance taxes, and ever-increasing labor costs that Massachusetts small businesses face.
“Worse still, voters ended one of Massachusetts’ strongest economic incentives by replacing a flat tax rate with a graduated income tax. Lawmakers should work to reduce the tax burden and the cost of doing business to make Massachusetts more affordable and prevent employers and workers from leaving for more business-friendly climates.”
With New Hampshire eliminating its only income tax — a tax on interest and dividend income — at the end of 2024 and Massachusetts raising taxes, the prognosis for growth in the Granite State is good.
And what does low unemployment mean for the state agency that takes care of the state’s unemployed workers? Are these state employees out of a job, too?
NHES Deputy Commissioner Richard Lavers says not to worry.
“The programs for which the department is responsible for implementing are designed to keep us busy regardless of where we are in the economic cycle,” Lavers said.
“During the pandemic, it was all hands on deck with 120,000 filing per week at the pandemic’s height. Now we have about 2,000 people filing for benefits, which allows us to focus on re-employment programs and creating opportunities for employers to connect with job seekers.”
Lavers pointed to the department’s job fair programs as an example.
“We had about 11,000 job seekers attend our virtual job fairs in 2022 compared to about 2,500 in 2019,” Lavers said. “You don’t need to be collecting unemployment in order to utilize our services. People can attend our virtual job fairs simply by going to virtualjobfairs.nh.gov and registering. Our state-hosted job search portals continue to be busy. We also host smaller, in-person recruitment events with employers at all of the NH Works offices located throughout the state.
“All of these services are free for New Hampshire employers and job seekers looking for employment in New Hampshire,” Lavers said.