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N.H. Unemployment Remains Low as Businesses Struggle To Fill Jobs

Todd Bookman/NHPR

New Hampshire’s unemployment rate, which ticked down to 2.7 percent in August, remains one of the lowest in the nation.

If you are a glass-half-full person, 2.7 percent is cause for celebration, especially when you compare it to where the state was in 2009, when the recession shot the unemployment rate up to 6.6 percent.

But there are plenty of glass-half-empty people out there right now.

“I guess I just can’t seem to get anybody to come in and work. I think the wages are competitive, but nobody’s applying for it, nobody is looking to do it,” says Joshua Mason, manager of Vinnie’s Pizzeria in Concord.

Mason says he’s upped his wages, but still can’t hire enough employees to staff the restaurant. The same scenario is playing out at not just in lower-paying fields, but also in advanced manufacturing, technology, and, more recently, school bus drivers.

Analysts say that a prolonged worker shortage can actually drag down the state’s economy. New Hampshire, which has seen slow population growth in recent years, could be further hampered as the state’s labor force, one of the oldest in the nation, ages into retirement.

One upside of the demand for workers, though, is a boost in employee wages. The average weekly earnings in New Hampshire, according to the state’s office of Employment Security, have climbed faster than the inflation rate since 2014.

Nationally, the median household income jumped 3.2 percent in 2016 to more than $59,000, according to new figures released Tuesday by the U.S. Census Bureau. 

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