Why is the mass unemployment rate twice that of NH?
At the Waterhouse restaurant in southwest New Hampshire, soft-shell crabs were on the lunch menu and business was booming.
But general manager Linda Quintanilha said she couldn’t fully reopen the restaurant in Peterborough because she couldn’t find enough staff.
âHalf of the patio is closed and half of the dining room is closed,â Quintanilha said.
New Hampshire’s unemployment rate stood at 2.9% in June, the third month in a row it was below 3%. May was the lowest in the country, and many businesses across the state are desperate for workers.
But just across the border in Massachusetts, unemployment is more than twice as high – 6.1% in May, the last available month. While competition for workers is also fierce in some industries and locations in Massachusetts, demand is much more uneven.
For example, a survey conducted this week by the American Hotel and Lodging Association found that Boston hotels are in the midst of an economic depression.
This means that a lot more people like Caroline Sande of Boston need work.
“It’s really hard for me because I have my mortgage, and I have my car loan and I have my bills,” said Sande, an immigrant from Kenya who lives in Hyde Park, where she looks after. from his 11-year-old mother. old son.
Sande is the sole breadwinner in the family, who depended on full-time housework at the Boston Park Plaza Hotel. But the pandemic hit downtown hotels and other businesses that depended on conferences and foreign travelers particularly hard. So her hours have been cut back – and now she’s struggling.
âWhat I getâ¦ out of unemployment are peanuts,â Sande said. “It’s also my nightmare because I’m so worried about my mortgage. So I’m stuck between a rock and a stone. So I leave that to God.”
As states emerge from pandemic-induced recessions, there are dramatic differences in unemployment rates across the country – even between states neighboring each other, like New Hampshire and Massachusetts.
Why the difference?
Some conservatives suggest this could be because Republican governors, including Sununu of New Hampshire, ended the $ 300 federal supplement for the unemployed – while Massachusetts maintained it.
But the unemployment gap between New Hampshire and Massachusetts existed long before Sununu cut that allowance. Thus, lawyers and economists advance other explanations.
John Drew, chief executive of Action for Boston Community Development, a nonprofit that provides services to low-income residents, said New Hampshire doesn’t have as many new immigrants, who need skills and language training.
âThese are just two different economies,â Drew said.
Michael Goodman, an economist at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, agreed: âMassachusetts is socially, economically, racially, ethnically more diverse than New Hampshire – and more densely populated than New Hampshire. “
Goodman points out that the pandemic has hit immigrant, black and brown, and working-class communities the hardest – and that New Hampshire is much whiter and less urban.
This helps explain why rural states like Vermont, South Dakota, Kansas, and Kentucky have relatively low unemployment rates, while states with larger urban centers including California, New York, New York Jersey and Illinois have some of the highest rates.
Goodman says another key factor is how badly states have been hit by the pandemic.
âMassachusetts closed pretty early, pretty completely, with a few exceptions,â he said.
Massachusetts was hit hardest by the pandemic, especially early on. In contrast, New Hampshire had a more relaxed approach to COVID restrictions and lifted them completely in March – nearly two months before Massachusetts.
Now New Hampshire officials are bragging about their good fortune.
“There are tens of thousands of well-paying jobs across the state today,” New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu recently told Concord. “New Hampshire continues to have one of the lowest unemployment rates in the country.”
Before the pandemic, New Hampshire and Massachusetts had similar unemployment rates, below 3%. Then, as businesses and government offices closed, the unemployment rate soared to 16% in both states. But New Hampshire’s rate has since fallen much faster, creating intense competition for workers statewide.
Harris Weldon, who owns two restaurants in Peterborough, offers bonuses of $ 250 to people who sign up to work in his kitchen, but he still struggles to find workers.
âWe compete with local manufacturers who pay a lot more,â Weldon said. “They give big bonuses, pay double. It was really tough.”
And a trucking company outside of Concord is offering qualified drivers bonuses of $ 10,000.
âI thought they accidentally put an extra zero,â said Richard Lavers, assistant commissioner of job security for New Hampshire. “It gives you an idea of ââthe desperation for this kind of worker.”