The state’s unemployment rate fell to 2.3 percent in May. (Getty Images)
A year after expanding the eligibility and minimum payment of New Hampshire’s unemployment system for the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Chris Sununu is moving to restrain it.
In an announcement Thursday, Sununu said the state would restore the requirement that a person be actively looking for employment in order to qualify for unemployment insurance.
That change will take effect May 23.
“We’re announcing that over the next month, we will be reintroducing our work-search requirement at New Hampshire Employment Security,” he said. “It does not mean that if you can’t find work that you’ll lose out on employment. Not at all. All it means is that starting on May 23, about a month from now, you’ll be required to look for work while on unemployment.”
While the change will mean applicants must be actively seeking work, they can still receive unemployment benefits if they can demonstrate that those efforts have been unsuccessful, Sununu said.
Since an executive order last spring, the eligibility requirements for unemployment have been relaxed. The order allowed recently unemployed people to collect the benefit if they were worried about contracting COVID-19 in the workplace.
“We wanted to make sure that individuals could remain safe in their home, to slow the spread of COVID if they so chose,” Sununu said.
But in his remarks to reporters Thursday, Sununu argued that a rebounding job market this spring – coupled with vaccination rates – meant that the environment had changed.
He pointed to the state’s 3 percent unemployment rate, one of the lowest in the country.
“It … unfortunately means that we’re – if anything – facing a workforce shortage,” he said.
New Hampshire has grappled with workforce shortages in key fields for years. In announcing the change, Sununu referred to “tens of thousands of high-paying jobs across the state” and noted virtual job fairs that the Department of Employment Security has helped facilitate since the pandemic.
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