Gov. Chris Sununu’s Administration sparred with the U.S. Department of Labor Thursday over the accuracy of their new weekly unemployment figures for the state.
Using the new federal numbers, it appeared unemployment claims actually rose in the Granite State by more than 4,000, or about 40 percent. Yet the state says the numbers alone don’t tell the whole story.
“The weekly unemployment report released today by the United States Department of Labor (USDOL) continues to show good news for the state of New Hampshire’s workforce and economy,” said Employment Security Commissioner George Copadis. “However, the numbers reported for New Hampshire by the federal government this week are wrong and present a misleading view of trends in the state’s unemployment claims, and it’s important to look at the facts behind the data.”
Copadis says the timing of the new release caused some claimants of unemployment benefits to be counted twice by the Department of Labor because New Hampshire ended its participation in supplemental pandemic unemployment benefits.
As a result, the state says certain individuals were counted once when they received their last week of federal unemployment benefits, and then a second time when those individuals filed a claim for state benefits, making the actual unemployment numbers look worse than they are.
As NHJournal has reported, the state of New Hampshire ended its participation in federal pandemic unemployment programs on June 19. The state opted instead to provide back-to-work bonuses of either $500 or $1,000 to new employees. After the program ended, individuals began filing state unemployment claims on June 26.
“The difference in the reporting dates for federal and state programs means some individuals were counted in both the state and federal programs in this week’s national report, artificially inflating New Hampshire’s numbers and presenting an inaccurate picture of weekly continuing claims,” said Brian Gottlob, Director of the Economic and Labor Market Information bureau at the Department of Employment Security.
Since the nation began its recovery from government-mandated COVID-19 lockdowns, New Hampshire has consistently had one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country. Last month, the state’s jobless rate fell below pre-pandemic levels, tied for the lowest unemployment in the country.
Greg Moore, New Hampshire state director for Americans For Prosperity, isn’t surprised the federal government’s numbers don’t quite add up.
“It’s clear that the federal government seems to struggle with even basic math. With management like this, it’s no wonder New Hampshire businesses can’t get paperwork for PPP loan forgiveness and thousands of Granite Staters still haven’t gotten their tax refunds,” Moore told NHJournal.
“The reality is that there are still numerous job openings across the state that need to be filled and “Now Hiring” signs are rivaling First-In-The-Nation primary candidate signs in the 72 hours before the election. Hopefully, those who have moved off of unemployment have found meaningful employment that will benefit both them and our booming economy.”
The Sununu administration sent out a statement just hours after the federal numbers hit, a sign of how important economic success is to the political standing of the Republican governor.
Rich Lavers, the deputy commissioner at Employment Security, told NHJournal unemployment numbers for the state actually went down during the week the USDOL was tracking. There were only 8,504 state unemployment claims, a 19 percent drop from the week before.
Lavers is hopeful the numbers will continue to drop.
“That [drop is] consistent with the scale of reductions that we’ve been seeing in the UI claim filing population over the last few months,” Lavers said. “Hopefully that’s something that we continue to see, but there will be some explaining that has to be done for a few weeks as there continue to be some of those residual federal claims that on first glance appear to be UI claims.”