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Some opting out of workforce

Granite State News Coillaborative
Published: 7/30/2021 3:56:24 PM

Labor disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic are rippling through the economy even as case numbers have declined and vaccination rates have increased.

Companies are having trouble finding workers. The newspaper employment ads tell the tale.

There are job openings for drivers, bartenders, housekeepers, landscapers, cooks, custodians and wait staff, among others. 

Even more openings can be found at online sites such as, with positions including industrial assemblers, front desk clerks, grocery stockers, sales representatives, warehouse workers, and medical technicians.

Some people have simply dropped out of the labor market. A June economic analysis by the state Employment Security Department noted that the percentage of people participating in the labor force was 66.7 percent, which compares to 65 percent in the Great Recession when the unemployment rate was 6.7 percent.

The state’s preliminary seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for June was 2.9 percent, three percentage points below the national rate.

Karmen Gifford, president of the Lakes Region Chamber, said people have stepped out of the workforce for a variety of reasons. Some have decided to stay home with their children and are focusing on family. There was a time in this country when it wasn’t so unusual for one parent to stay home and the other to work.

“Back when I grew up, it didn’t always have to be a two-person income, working-family type of thing,” Gifford said.

There are expenses to participating in the workforce, including child care and transportation costs, and some families have discovered they can live on a single income.

“Others may have done well with money and some may be taking an early retirement, enjoying life more and finding a different balance,” she said. “That balance may have made itself known during COVID, and people don’t want to step back into the workplace.”

In response to worker shortages, some businesses, including some local restaurants, have been able to reduce hours and still be successful. To stay competitive in the labor market, some businesses have had to increase wages.

Some people may be opting for part-time work, realizing they can get by on fewer hours but a higher hourly rate, Gifford said.

“Quality of life is playing a factor in pursuing career goals,” she said. “Of course this is a perfect place to do both. We’re always trying to sell that.”

Joe Doiron, director of workforce development in the state Business and Economic Affairs Department, said it’s important to remember there was a worker shortage even before the pandemic.

Other states are in the same boat.

“The pandemic has exacerbated that shortage,” he said. “There are a number of folks who have not yet re-entered the workforce. As cases fall and vaccination rates increase, there are a number of great opportunities out there for people.

“It’s a job seeker's market. Just as it is a seller's market with real estate.”

New Hampshire could also grow its workforce by retaining more of its college graduates or attracting more people from out of state.

“New Hampshire is consistently rated as one of the top states to live in nationally,” he said. “We have great schools, quality of life, the seacoast, lakes, mountains. Why not live where you look forward to visiting every year?”

Some workers have used their time off the job during the pandemic as a period to explore other career paths.

He encourages people to participate in virtual job fairs in which they can communicate directly with prospective employers –

The state’s Employment Security Department can also connect people with job training programs and job search assistance —

These articles are being shared by partners in The Granite State News Collaborative. For more information visit

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