N.H. unemployment rate drops to 4.9%

The latest figures from the New Hampshire Department of Economic Security have placed the state’s April unemployment rate at 4.9 percent – approaching levels that haven’t been seen in more than two years.April’s 4.9 percent is a drop of 0.3 percent from March’s rate of 5.2 percent. It’s the first time New Hampshire’s unemployment rate has been below 5 percent since December 2008 – and it’s almost half the national unemployment rate of 9 percent.”This is tremendous news for our workers, our businesses and our state. The unemployment rate continues to drop steadily here in New Hampshire, as we continue to lead the nation in economic recovery,” said Gov. John Lynch.Dennis Delay, economist with the New Hampshire Center for Public Policy Studies, said about 7,000 jobs were added in April compared to March, which certainly helped reduce unemployment.According to Delay, the professional and business services sector grew by 5,400 jobs over the 12-month period of April 2010 to April 2011, with the leisure and hospitality sector adding 4,000 jobs and education growing by some 1,400 jobs.”However, the labor force also declined, meaning there were more retirees, people leaving the state and those who have stopped looking for work,” he added.State economic research analyst Anita Josten said the number of initial unemployment claims actually rose slightly in April to 6,253, from 6,055 in March. But that’s “significantly less than April of last year, when there were 8,052 initial claims.”She also said that the total number of unemployed persons dropped by nearly 2,000 in the last month, to 36,190 in April.”Summer is a big hiring season,” said Josten, as seen in the increase of hospitality jobs, “but the gains in the business services sector are largely reflected in hiring by temp agencies.”New Hampshire’s businesses are still fighting a number of other pressures, keeping job growth at a sluggish pace, said Delay.”The pace of job creation is still pretty slow — about 1 percent a year, compared to previous recessions,” said Delay. “General uncertainty in the strength of the recovery, energy prices and health-care costs are all still playing a factor. I heard business owners saying they essentially took the payroll tax cut from the beginning of year and put it into their gas tanks.”He also said he felt there was little chance of another broad-scale stimulus package, unless another crippling economic disaster hits.Added Josten: “The economy is still rocky, but moving in the right direction.”The governor cautioned against getting complacent over the numbers because there are still thousands of Granite Staters without jobs or who are under-employed.”We must continue to work to help get more of our people back to work,” he said.Announced with the positive April unemployment news, the governor signed Senate Bill 62, which expands the New Hampshire Working program, a three-part jobs program designed to help companies and workers avoid layoffs, to workers who have exhausted their unemployment benefits.By participating in New Hampshire Working, these workers will get a chance to participate in up to six weeks of training at a potential new employer, giving them a foot in the door and a chance to show an employer they have the skills and talents that are being sought. Prior to passage of SB 62, only those workers collecting benefits could participate. To date, 73 percent of those who have participated in this part of the program have been hired full time. – CINDY KIBBE/NEW HAMPSHIRE BUSINESS REVIEW

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