Business Editor's Notebook -- Unemployment low, businesses struggle to fill jobs

·2 min read

May 22—IN CASE you missed it, Employment Security announced last week that New Hampshire's unemployment rate for April dipped to 2.3 percent. We're deep into the groove we lived in before the pandemic when the rate hovered below 3 percent for more than five years.

There are still 17,500 people in the Granite State who remain unemployed. Who they are, what they are able to do — and how much money they would take to do it — is the kind of data that could drive my retirement if I knew how to collect it.

Businesses of every shape and size, from giant defense contractors who need systems engineers to diners who need someone to scrub dishes would be happy to pay for the intel.

Nationwide, unemployment remains low, at 3.6 percent. As the price of gas pumps toward five bucks a gallon and the price of groceries busts weekly budgets, somewhere lurks a sweet spot where the cost of living primes more people to go back to work or take on second jobs.

That's old-school thought. Nothing we ever lived through looks like this economy. Just as retirees who were scared away from public places by the pandemic might have considered picking up a few hours here and there at local stores, COVID is spiking up again.

Masks on. Masks off. Masks on again.

From March to April, the total labor force in the state increased by 1,340 to 759,960, an increase of 3,460. Still, thousands of jobs go unfilled.

You don't need an economist to tell you that. Unless you're still holed up at home getting all the necessities of life delivered to your door, you encounter evidence of the great lost wave of workers everywhere you go.

At a popular restaurant in Boston last week, the hostess was alerting patrons they would face a 45-minute wait and were only seating customers who had reservations. But there were plenty of empty tables around. Just no one to staff them.

At the moment, inflation has been cast as the boogeyman that will deep six the nation into another recession. A serious concern for sure, but the lack of workers will remain a much greater threat to our long-term economic success.

Mike Cote is senior editor for news and business. Contact him at mcote@unionleader.com or (603) 206-7724.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. They do not represent the views and opinions of the sponsor, its members and affiliates.