November’s jobless rate rose, but state’s employment picture looks strong

Number of Granite Staters in workforce rose again last month, continuing annual trend

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New Hampshire’s unemployment rate in November was 2.6 percent, two-tenths of a point above October’s and more than a half a point over the summer’s rate, which was 2 percent for several months. Bad news? Not necessarily, because if you look at the numbers closely, things are more complicated.

Some 4,400 more people were working in November – and nearly 18,000 more Granite Staters were working than in November 2021, according to the latest employment statistics.

When it comes to hours worked and wages, they actually fell to 33.5 hours a week, more than a half-hour drop from last year. Yet wages rose by 4.2 percent. So employees were working less and getting paid more for the hours they worked.

Wages have increased all year, but those hikes have been slipping until they bottomed out to a 2.5 percent monthly gain in September. Since then, the wage gains have been high, though still behind inflation.

Inflation in New England, however, fell to 6.4 percent in November, which means real wages are falling, but a little less steeply.

The biggest gains were made in the professional and business services sector, which includes technical services, management and administrative employees. In other words, mainly office workers – the ones who primarily worked from home during the height of the pandemic (and still are to some extent). That sector gained 6,000 jobs since last year — a third of all job gains in New Hampshire. Their average hours increased by over an hour to 38 hours, and wages went up 14.4 percent. So if you have a white-collar job, you are doing just fine.

Manufacturing workers also are doing well. The number of employees in that sector rose by 800 in November, bringing the yearly increase to 1,700. They have been working overtime an average of a half-hour, a little above last year, and more than 40 minutes more than October. Hourly wages have risen 6.5 percent per hour, and 7 percent compared to last year.

You would expect retail workers also to be busy in November as everyone gears up for the holidays. But when you look at the trade category (which includes everything from department store workers to warehouse employees to truck drivers), roughly the same number of people were employed in November as the year before and they were working nearly two hours fewer. While their hourly wages have gone up 3.6 percent, their weekly pay fell by 2.3 percent.

The hospitality industry workforce increased by 2,800, to 67,500, in November, but hours were flat and hourly and weekly wages went up 2.6 percent.

As for December, it doesn’t look like much will change. Initial unemployment claims fell by 17 to 355 for the week ending Dec. 10, but they climbed the week before. The same is true of continued claims, which fell by 94 to 1,922 for the week ending Dec. 3. They had risen the previous week.

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