Department of Employment Security

New Hampshire Employment Security has processed a record number of new jobless claims over the past two months.

Despite a tsunami of residents filing for jobless benefits last month, the state’s March jobless report Tuesday showed a drop of 320 unemployed residents over February.

“We recognize the release of today’s unemployment report for the month of March is not an accurate reflection of the current state of New Hampshire’s labor market,” said Brian Gottlob, director of the state’s economic and labor market information bureau.

The March report matched February’s 2.6% unemployment rate. The national unemployment rate, meanwhile, rose from 3.5% in February to 4.4% in March.

A big issue is that U.S. Census workers survey households each month during the week containing the month’s 12th day to help generate the state’s unemployment numbers.

“It was basically confusion on people who responded to the household survey,” Gottlob said.

“If you’ve been told you might be called back in two weeks, you might say, ‘I’m not unemployed, I’m out of the labor force,’” Gottlob said.

If people say they weren’t part of the labor force, then they can’t be counted as unemployed, he said.

Those household surveys, completed by March 14, also took place before government restrictions shuttered many businesses and threw tens of thousands of people out of work across the state. State Employment Security indicated more than 100,000 Granite Staters filed for unemployment between March 15 and April 4.

The March report said the number of unemployed residents dropped by 320 over February to 19,620.

The state saw 10,630 fewer residents employed in March over February. It also reported its total labor force shrunk by 10,950 from the previous month.

Those two numbers being similar while “at the same time the number of unemployed decreased slightly suggests that some individuals who were temporarily not working indicated that they were ‘out of the labor force’ rather than unemployed,” Gottlob said. “There just were so many unusual circumstances with this report.”

Laconia economist Russ Thibeault, who expects April’s unemployment rate to top 10%, said next month’s report will reflect the flood of the newly jobless.

“This is really pre-virus figures,” Thibeault 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.

Thursday, May 28, 2020
Saturday, May 23, 2020
Thursday, May 21, 2020
Wednesday, May 20, 2020