N.H. jobless rate drops to 6.8%

New Hampshire’s unemployment rate dropped by four-tenths of a percent in October, led by an increase in state and local government employment.

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for October stood at 6.8 percent, 0.4 percent lower than the 7.2 percent rate in September. The unadjusted rate was 6.5 percent — a solid half percent lower.

While that’s still much higher than the 4 percent rate of October 2008, it is well below the 10.2 percent seasonally adjusted figure for the nation as a whole, and it is the first good employment news the state has seen since the recession began.

The good news could be the result of some “funky” timing, cautioned Annette Nielsen, economist at the state Department of Employment Security Economic and Labor Market Information Bureau. But, “considering everything, it looks fairly strong,” Nielsen said of the jobs statistics.

One of the reasons, she said, is that there was an actual increase in the number of jobs in the state. Seasonally adjusted, New Hampshire added 2,500 jobs over the last month (though it still remains down 16,300 for the year). The bulk of the jobs – 2,200 – came at the state and local government level.

That may have a few state workers scratching their heads, with all the talk of layoffs and attrition, but as of October, most of the pink slips hadn’t gone out yet. And Nielsen pointed out that state university employees count as workers, as do teachers. The economic stimulus money was heavy in education.

Overall, there was an increase of 800 jobs in educational and health services, and although there was an expected post=summer drop in hospitality work, seasonally adjusted, employment improved there too.

Construction employment was flat, which Nielsen said is “very good news” – reflecting that stimulus money might have stopped the bleeding in that industry. However, that’s still 4,000 fewer jobs than last year, bringing the total down to 21,300.

Manufacturing employment continued its decline: a 1,600-job loss month over month and a 8,700 job hemorrhage from last year. Nearly all of the manufacturing decrease was in durable goods. There are now 65,600 manufacturing jobs left in the state, and more people work in government, than manufacturing and construction combined. – BOB SANDERS/NEW HAMPSHIRE BUSINESS REVIEW

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