BAE Systems

Despite facing a shallow labor pool, New Hampshire employers counted 5,500 more workers than a year earlier, helping the state share the nation’s lowest unemployment rate.

“The primary reason the state’s unemployment rate is so low is because our employers have been adding jobs at a healthy rate,” said economist Russ Thibeault, president of Applied Economic Research in Laconia.

Defense contractor BAE Systems hired 1,200 workers in New Hampshire last year, swelling its Granite State workforce to more than 6,000 by year’s end.

“In challenging hiring environments, it is important to get creative, so we are investing in several activities that help strengthen our talent pipeline,” a BAE spokesman said Monday.

New Hampshire in January set records for number of filled jobs (684,800), number of residents employed (746,270) and number of residents in the labor force (764,580). Tens of thousands of Granite Staters commute to adjacent states, explaining why there are more employed residents than jobs in New Hampshire.

“Revised estimates have New Hampshire and Iowa tied for the lowest rate in the nation at 2.4 percent for September through December of 2018, so January 2019 makes five straight months,” said Robert Cote, a research analyst at the state’s Economic & Labor Market Information Bureau.

The state’s 2.4 percent unemployment rate for January is challenging the state’s record 2.2 percent rate not seen in more than 30 years.

“It is possible that the unemployment rate could decline further, but it will be very difficult to achieve any substantial decreases,” Cote said.

Still, there were about 6,700 online job postings in New Hampshire over the past 30 days, according to Burning Glass Technologies and the New Hampshire Department of Employment Security.

BAE said it is working with colleges and universities in key regions to offer graduate certificates, master of science graduate programs and/or graduate courses “that have been tailored for our needs in specific engineering disciplines.”

BAE also hired a record 300 summer interns last year.

Mike Skelton, president and CEO of the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, said money alone isn’t the answer.

“With the talent pool more competitive than ever, many employers making successful hires are looking beyond just compensation and standard benefits,” he said. “Flexible work hours and the option to work remotely seem to be becoming increasingly popular and accepted across several industry sectors.”

Thibeault said the state’s unemployment rate has sat at less than 3 percent since December 2015.

“We’re adding jobs because the state has a nice diverse economy,” he said. “We’re seeing a pickup in manufacturing and construction jobs.”

The state is planning at least 22 job fairs this year.

George Copadis, commissioner of the state New Hampshire Employment Security, said his department is working to get more people jobs, saying “we are not going to rest” on the nation’s low unemployment rate.

A March 21 job fair at the University of New Hampshire at Manchester will feature at least 40 employers with 531 job openings.