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May 17. 2011 12:15PM

NH jobless rate falls below 5 percent

CONCORD - The state unemployment rate continued to decline in April, falling to 4.9 percent, its lowest level since December 2008.

"This is tremendous news for our workers, our businesses and our state," Gov. John Lynch said. "The reason New Hampshire is outperforming every other state is because we have a successful economic strategy in place. New Hampshire is one of the most business-friendly states in the nation," he said.

The rate in April fell from 5.2 percent in March, according to the Department of Employment Security. Last month New Hampshire had the fourth-lowest jobless rate in the nation and the lowest in New England. The national unemployment rate for March was 9.0, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Unemployment peaked in New Hampshire in the fall of 2009, when the rate hit 6.7 percent.

The new jobless rate means 36,190 people are still without jobs in the state. The number was 10,720 higher in April 2010, Lynch’s office said.

Lynch announced he signed a bill expanding the New Hampshire Working program, which gives workers who have exhausted jobless benefits a chance to train for six weeks at new jobs. Since the program began a year ago, three of four workers who participated have found jobs.

"The time is right to expand this program as more and more companies are looking to hire," Lynch said.

Republican legislators said at least some of the credit for job growth belongs to them, because the House and Senate have been advancing business-friendly bills that are giving employers confidence.

"We need to continue our focus on creating a more business-friendly environment, developing a consistent tax policy and continuing our commitment to reducing regulations," Senate President Peter Bragdon, R-Milford, said. "The state Senate has made all three of those policies a real priority throughout this legislative session."

House Majority Leader D.J. Bettencourt, R-Salem, said, "It is clear that, through the passage of pro-business legislation, which included 30 bills that cut regulations on small business, employers are now showing the confidence to hire new workers and expand our economy."


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