Challenges Facing New Hampshire’s Workers and Economy During the COVID-19 Crisis

This year has posed unprecedented challenges to New Hampshire’s workers and economy. The COVID-19 pandemic and crisis has contributed to significant changes in employment and has impacted the economic security of many Granite Staters. Despite positive trends in employment and the other indicators, which continued into early 2020, the onset of the COVID-19 crisis in New Hampshire created a severe public health emergency and has led to subsequent economic and employment fallout. This COVID-19 crisis is both a health and economic challenge, and continues to impact the lives of Granite Staters.

Unemployment in New Hampshire reached unprecedented levels in April 2020. This spike in unemployment levels was higher than any point during the Great Recession, which spanned 2007 to 2009. Unemployment continues to remain elevated throughout the state, and job losses have been greatest in certain service-based industries. These industries, which paid lower than average wages, along with regions of New Hampshire where large portions of employment are supported by tourism and leisure activities, have experienced the largest levels of employment loss, represented through claims for unemployment insurance.

These employment losses in New Hampshire have directly impacted the economic stability of many Granite Staters, particularly those who were earning lower or more modest incomes, and who worked in the most effected service-based industries. Many of those facing employment or income losses due to the impacts of this crisis have utilized key support programs, which have been temporarily expanded or created in an effort to help ensure individuals and families can make ends meet. Despite these expansions to certain support programs, other challenges in the state were both created and exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis. The costs of housing and food have increased during this crisis, and limited access to and affordability of childcare has created additional financial and employment hardships for many New Hampshire residents and families.

This Issue Brief examines the recent employment landscape in New Hampshire, the employment impacts of the COVID-19 crisis on specific industries and regions of the state, comparisons of the current economic recession to past recessions, and discussions of the new and increased pressures facing Granite Staters who may be the most vulnerable and face the greatest risks to their economic stability.