Hannaford bread aisle

Last month, the bread aisle was bare at Hannaford’s in Hooksett. Since mid-March, Hannaford hired more than 1,700 workers in its five-state region.

While Hannaford hired hundreds of new New Hampshire workers in the past month, about 700 staffers at Catholic Medical Center are sidelined as the Manchester hospital canceled elective surgeries to focus on COVID-19.

A state report just out cited health care workers and retail jobs, especially those involving distribution warehouses and restocking store shelves, as having the highest number of new job ads posted online between March 15 to March 30.

But government restrictions since mid-March on business openings and a stay-at-home order have shown how quickly the employment landscape can change. More than 100,000 residents, including thousands of retail workers, filed fresh unemployment claims in three weeks.

New Hampshire hospitals statewide are losing nearly $200 million in revenue on a monthly basis as they focus on COVID-19, according to the New Hampshire Hospital Association. It collected information from hospitals on estimated losses from activities to preserve personal protective equipment and to prepare for a potential surge of COVID-19 patients, said spokeswoman Vanessa Stafford.

CMC says it is losing half of its $30 million in normal monthly revenues as it canceled elective surgeries and services. It is idling workers who can go unpaid or use earned time, going up to two weeks into a negative balance, said Lauren Collins-Cline, CMC’s director of communications and public relations.

“It’s a very bizarre dynamic we’re in — health care is the most needed asset in our community right now, but we are all half the facilities we were a month ago,” she said.

“We are still hiring certain positions,” she said in an email. “Currently, we have about 200 jobs posted, but that number is changing. Given the current situation, we’re only actively filling the roles that are central to our COVID-19 response (e.g. respiratory therapists) and the positions that will be most needed as we begin to ramp back up to normal.”

CMC isn’t alone.

SolutionHealth, which includes Elliot Hospital System and Southern New Hampshire Health, has moved staff around.

“We have redeployed hundreds of staff and providers to meet the most pressing needs of the pandemic, and two weeks ago, began using telemedicine to ensure continuity of care and patient access in primary and specialty care settings,” said Dr. Gregory Baxter, president of Elliot Health System.

“We are currently evaluating additional changes to our workforce as we review models that forecast the surge impact and also anticipate how our health system will return to normal operations in the coming weeks and months,” he said by email.

“Lost revenue from cancelling all non-emergent services is several million dollars per week,” he said. “Federal and state relief efforts, while helpful, only offset a small portion of the lost revenue.”

Dartmouth-Hitchcock, which has more than 900 open positions, “is still hiring clinical positions such as nursing, providers and technical positions as well as hiring for support areas despite the current pandemic,” said Janice Kilfeather-Mackey, manager of talent acquisition.

“We are strategically focusing our recruiting efforts and resources on the greatest need to continue to provide the best patient care,” she said.

Early this month, the organization that owns Lakes Region General Hospital and Franklin Regional Hospital said it would furlough more than 600 employees.

Health care and retail made up more than half of the 6,269 job postings, according to a report by the state Economic and Labor Market Information Bureau.

Since mid-March, Hannaford hired more than 1,700 workers in its five-state region, and “it’s safe to say we have hired hundreds of additional workers in New Hampshire,” Hannaford spokesman Eric Blom said in an email.

“We are partnering with many major employers (including those in the hotel, car rental, general retail and restaurant industries) who have furloughed workers, to help connect our openings with displaced workers,” he said.

Fidelity Investments, which employs more than 5,300 in New Hampshire, announced Monday it was accelerating its hiring of 2,000 workers nationwide.

“In New Hampshire, we are anticipating a couple of hundred new hires, which range from financial consultants and licensed representatives to software engineers and customer service representatives,” said spokeswoman Kimberly Reingold.

“We are actively recruiting and interviewing now,” she said by email. “Given the current environment, we are making some changes to the hiring process. Those include interviews via video, and positions that include flexible schedules, remote learning and training, and work from home.”

The VA New England Healthcare System said it was looking to hire people for 20 different positions, including for physicians, nursing assistants and housekeeping assistants.

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.  

Thursday, May 28, 2020
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Wednesday, May 20, 2020