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City unemployment
Statewide job numbers belie deeper workforce problem

02/01/18
By Ryan Lessard news@hippopress.com



 New Hampshire unemployment numbers hit a floor in 2017. While unemployment rates in big cities like Manchester and Nashua are fairly similar to the statewide numbers, other places like Concord and Portsmouth have much lower rates.

The extremely low unemployment in the state is a sign of a shrinking labor force, according to Annette Nielsen, a labor economist at New Hampshire Employment Security. She said looking at those city-by-city breakdowns can sometimes reveal that the labor shortage is actually worse than we might have thought by simply looking at the statewide numbers. Statewide, the non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rate started out at 3.2 percent in January 2017. By last December, that had dropped to 2.3 percent. 
Meanwhile, Concord started the year at 2.6 percent and ended at 1.9. Similarly, Portsmouth went from 2.3 percent to 1.8 percent over the course of the last 12 months. Nielsen said anything under 2.5 percent is essentially considered full employment.
Manchester started 2017 at slightly above the statewide rate and ended at the exact same rate of 2.3 percent in December. Nielsen said the Queen City probably hewed closer to the statewide number because it is the largest municipality in the state by population and is therefore more representative. 
But Concord and Portsmouth were likely lower because they had smaller populations and limited housing options. And Portsmouth proper has a high cost of living, which means many of its workers may not live in the city.
Unemployment numbers start to look worse in more northerly and rural areas because there are fewer industries and options for commuting, but those places also tend to have smaller populations, so the unemployment figures aren’t enough to skew the state rate.
Nashua’s unemployment is markedly higher than the statewide figure, starting at 3.8 percent in January, peaking at 4 percent in February and ending at 2.6 in December. Nielsen said this is likely due to the higher share of retail trade and manufacturing industries in the Gate City. Those are industries that are particularly struggling to fill jobs as the labor pool dwindles or ages out. 





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