Coronavirus jobless

A man wearing a mask recently walks past a parking lot emptied out by COVID-19 on South Willow Street in Manchester.

New Hampshire unemployment claims fell for the fourth straight week, but the unemployment rate caused by the COVID-19 pandemic exceeded 16% for the week ending April 25, according to the state.

In Manchester, the rate was 21%, compared to 14.8% for Nashua. New Hampshire residents who work in other states aren’t counted in the community totals, meaning Nashua’s rate would be higher after factoring in the many residents who commute to work across the Massachusetts border.

New Hampshire residents working in restaurants (18,672) and in retail work located within the state (18,416) topped the list of industries with the highest new unemployment claims between March 15 and April 25, according to Employment Security. The department previously released unemployment claims by industry regardless of whether workers were New Hampshire residents or not.

More than 172,000 residents have applied for new unemployment benefits in the past seven weeks amid the coronavirus pandemic — about equal to the combined populations of Nashua, Merrimack, Dover and Londonderry.

About 11,800 people filed claims for the first time in the week ending May 2, the U.S. Department of Labor reported Thursday, down from a revised figure of 15,000 the previous week.

“This week’s figures show an improvement over recent weekly figures but are still about 20 times higher than a typical pre-virus week’s filings,” said Laconia economist Russ Thibeault. “We are not out of the woods yet.”

Employment Security Deputy Commissioner Rich Lavers said last week’s figure was down 70% from the state’s worst week (ending April 4), when 39,200 filed fresh jobless claims.

“We’re cautiously optimistic at least in the short term that it represents a stabilization in ... new claims,” Lavers said, noting the state’s share of initial claims is decreasing at a quicker pace than elsewhere in the nation.

The state launched a new website this week, unemploymentbenefits.nh.gov.

People can seek unemployment because of layoff, furlough, reduction in hours or to care for children or family members or to self-quarantine and still qualify for unemployment checks.

The state’s “COVID-19 affected unemployment rate” was calculated by taking the 172,481 residents who have filed the initial unemployment claims in a recent seven-week period and dividing that into the state’s total labor force.

“Adding New Hampshire residents who filed a claim in another state as well as individuals who were unemployed prior to the COVID-19 pandemic raises the overall unemployment rate,” the state’s weekly report said.

The state’s unemployment rate is scheduled to be released on May 19.

The coronavirus pandemic, which shut businesses and prompted millions to stay home, has resulted in more than 33 million Americans filing new unemployment claims over the past seven weeks, more than 3.1 million last week alone.

What’s Working, a series exploring solutions for New Hampshire’s workforce needs, is sponsored by the New Hampshire Solutions Journalism Lab at the Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications and is funded by Eversource, the New Hampshire Charitable Foundation, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, the New Hampshire College & University Council, Northeast Delta Dental and the New Hampshire Coalition for Business and Education.

Contact reporter Michael Cousineau at mcousineau@unionleader.com. To read stories in the series, visit unionleader.com/whatsworking.

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