Most recent data shows New Hampshire jobless claims dropping again

But nearly 2,500 new claims were filed as historic unemployment trend continues

More Granite Staters are getting jobs than losing them, but people are still being laid off in record numbers.

Ap 20107683994269New claims for the week ending Aug. 22 were down by 13%, to 2,465 – though that number is still more than four times the usual number who filed a claim before the pandemic. Nationally, another million people were laid off, an 8% percent decrease.

Continuing claims for the previous week (which ended Aug. 13) were down 2,997, to 46,839, a 6% decline. Nationally, those claims were down 1.9%.

In its weekly report, the state Department of Employment Security pointed out where some of the job gains are coming. The greatest growth was in accommodations, which now employs 80.8% of the workforce it had before the pandemic, though that still leaves about a fifth of that workforce with no jobs. Employment in that sector had been down to 42.3% at the height of the pandemic.

Employment in restaurants and bars has risen from 48.3% to 85.5%.

The healthcare industry seems closest to normal. Hospitals are at 96.1% of pre-Covid employment, with ambulatory healthcare Services at 94.6% and nursing and residential care facilities at 92.3%.

The state’s official unemployment rate for July is 8.1%, but it is expected to drop in August. In a chart, Employment Security’s weekly report compared the state’s “fast and furious recession” to previous ones, noting how fast both its onset and recovery came.

As Deputy Commissioner Richard Lavers pointed out in an email, New Hampshire recovered half the jobs it lost in the weeks. It took about six years for the Great Recession to cut that peak rate in half.

Enhanced benefits

On Tuesday, Sununu announced the state was approved to provide an extra $300 in unemployment benefits for three weeks, and then it will be evaluated on a week-by-week basis. The national $44 billion Lost Wages Assistance Program comes via executive order from FEMA, and it will end when the agency’s funding drops below $25 billion. FEMA’s budge for 2020 is only $28.7 billion, but Congress allocated another $70 billion to cover pandemic disaster costs.

However, the agency is beset with historic wildfires in California and a major hurricane in Louisiana, and it is early in the season for both. Some analysts expect that the enhanced benefit will last only a few weeks, and states that were approved earlier might end up with more benefits.

Some 39 states had applied for the benefits, but only about seven had been approved before New Hampshire was given the OK Monday, meaning that unemployed people here may get a few weeks more than other states before the money runs out.

Congress, which will be back in session then, might allocate more, though previous efforts to come up with a fourth coronavirus spending package have failed.

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