Gauchos

Gauchos Churrascaria owner Clark Graves sits at the bar, which has become his office for takeout and delivery orders at his downtown Manchester eatery on Wednesday. Workers in the restaurant and hospitality sector have been hardest hit by the pandemic.

The coronavirus pandemic cut a wide swath through the state’s economy in a month’s time.

It idled or cut paychecks for more than 26,000 bar and restaurant workers, more than 6,000 in dental offices, nearly 6,000 in education, and 4,600 who sell cars, boats and RVs and their parts. Another 11,000 workers in administrative and support services were affected.

The economic toll — about 155,000 New Hampshire jobs in all — also included those caring for community members in need of extra help.

The social assistance industry, including child day care services and those assisting the disabled, along with nursing and residential care facilities, employed nearly 30,000 workers before the pandemic. Nearly 8,400 of them filed for unemployment between March 15 and April 18, meaning they were furloughed, laid off or had their hours cut.

Their losses are more significant than some other sectors “because of the critical front-line service they’re providing to the most vulnerable,” said Richard Lavers, deputy commissioner for Employment Security.

The statistics include about 16,000 who voluntarily left their jobs to care for children or family members or to self-quarantine and still qualified for unemployment checks.

Taken together as an industry, health care lost more than 23,000 workers for at least part of their work weeks, including nearly 4,900 in hospitals alone. Many hospitals have announced furloughs and pay cuts, including Catholic Medical Center and Elliot Hospital in Manchester, after being forced to suspend elective surgeries and other services.

In mid-March, the state banned restaurants and bars from letting customers eat and drink in their establishments.

In the hospitality sector — bars, restaurants and the lodging industry — more than 32,000 workers were sidelined or had their hours reduced.

“We thought it would be closer to 40,000,” said Mike Somers, president and CEO of the New Hampshire Lodging & Restaurant Association. “In the grand scheme, I’m glad I’m a little bit wrong.”

Somers said he has heard of four or five restaurants that have closed permanently in Portsmouth alone.

The state’s figures count the number of job losses, regardless of what state the affected worker lives in.

In a different metric, the state calculated a “COVID-19 affected unemployment rate” for each community for the period from March 15 to April 11.

Some communities which rely heavily on tourism logged more than 20% unemployment, including Laconia, Littleton, Meredith, Conway and Jackson.

The impact on the summer tourist season will be a matter of degree.

“We hope to salvage some portion of it,” Somers said.

Manchester, the state’s largest city, had the most residents file for unemployment: 11,610, during that four-week stretch, which translated to a 17.4% unemployment rate.

Nashua, the second-largest city, had 6,246 residents file fresh claims, a 12% unemployment rate.

These figures don’t include the number of New Hampshire residents who work out of state.

“The difference there is Nashua is closer to the Mass. border, so you have a higher number of folks who are working in Massachusetts and because of that they would collect against Mass. and not collect in New Hampshire,” Lavers said.

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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