New Hampshire labor force continues to shrink as wages continue to rise

State’s unemployment rate fell to 2.6 percent in December

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The unemployment rate in New Hampshire is heading back downward, wages are increasing and thousands of people still haven’t returned to the job market, according to the latest data from the U.S. Department of Labor.

Some 2,922 individuals collected jobless benefits during the first week of the year, which ended Jan. 8, down over 15 percent from to the week ending New Year’s Day.

For the week ending Jan. 15, the department reported that first-time unemployment claims also dropped as 534 lost their jobs during the week, a 14 percent decrease from the previous week

This is contrary to the national picture as first-time claims jumped 24 percent, to 286,000 and continuing claims climbed as well.

New Hampshire’s unemployment rate for December inched down a point, to 2.6 percent, from November and was well below the 3.8 percent rate in December 2020. Nationally, the rate is 3.9 percent, a 0.3 percent decline from November and 2.8 points lower than December 2020.

But while there are fewer unemployed people in New Hampshire, there are also fewer people who are employed. The state’s labor force fell by 1,000 in December and a total of nearly 19,000 for the year.

Wages also are going up. The average weekly wage in December is about 30 cents an hour more than November and $1.40 an hour higher than the same time last year. That’s a 4.5 percent increase, but still below the CPI of 7 percent, so despite the worker shortage, real wages are actually going down.

The biggest wage increase was seen in the service sector, where wages rose $1.60 an hour for the year. The biggest increase was in health and education, where the hourly rate rose by $3.14, followed by leisure and hospitality, which increased by $2.05. The latter had the highest percentage increase (11.1 percent), since its wages were lower to begin with.

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