Coronavirus jobless

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

The number of New Hampshire residents who were unemployed because of the coronavirus pandemic hit 15% as of April 18, state officials calculated.

But the “COVID-19 affected unemployment rate” is only part of the state’s unemployment picture.

“Adding New Hampshire residents who filed a claim in another state as well as individuals who were unemployed before the COVID-19 pandemic raises the overall unemployment rate,” said a report from the state Department of Employment Security.

“It’s not the official unemployment rate,” said Employment Security Deputy Commissioner Richard Lavers. “It counts the new claims during the pandemic as a percentage of the labor force.”

Nearly 160,000 residents have applied for new unemployment benefits in the past six weeks amid the coronavirus pandemic — about equal to the combined populations of Manchester, Dover and Laconia. The state’s April unemployment rate is scheduled for release May 19.

But numbers are people — and sometimes they don’t fit neatly into categories.

Take Eugene Baylus.

The Concord optometrist has been working reduced hours for the past month, meaning some weeks he received no unemployment benefits and some weeks as little as $35,which is enough for him to qualify for the additional $600 in federal benefits.

His reduced paychecks and unemployment are “not even close” to replacing his normal income, said Baylus, who lives in Loudon with his family of five.

“My biggest issue is that I have bills that are relative to my normal income,” Baylus said by email this week. “People may say, ‘You are getting what everyone else is getting,’ but it’s less than half of my normal income, and I have monthly bills that are appropriate for my previous income.”

Tens of thousands of workers in some of the state’s industries have filed for unemployment.

More than 28,000 retail workers, 25,000 in health care and more than 28,000 in restaurants and bars filed new unemployment claims between March 15 and April 18, according to Employment Security.

People can seek unemployment because of layoffs, furloughs, reductions in hours, to care for children or family members or to self-quarantine.

Meanwhile, the state saw its third consecutive weekly decline in the number of residents filing new claims for unemployment, according to the federal government Thursday.

There were 14,347 first-time filers for the week ending April 25, down from 20,414 the previous week.

In the record week ending April 4, fresh jobless claims totaled 39,202.

The coronavirus pandemic, which has closed up businesses and prompted millions to stay home, has led more than 30 million Americans to file new unemployment claims over the past six weeks, more than 3.8 million just last week alone.

According to new state figures, 12,971 Manchester residents filed for unemployment for the first time during that same period.

New Hampshire residents can receive up to $427 a week in benefits, plus a weekly $600 supplemental federal payment.

Before the pandemic, the state’s weekly record for new claims occurred in December 2001, during a recession, when 4,872 people filed. The worst week during the Great Recession saw 4,058 new initial claims in January 2011. State records date back to 1967.

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
Saturday, May 23, 2020
Thursday, May 21, 2020
Wednesday, May 20, 2020