3/7/2013 - There were 41,150 unemployed New Hampshire residents as of December 2012. They face an uphill battle anyway, given the tough economic situation, but the across-the-board federal budget cuts will only make the unemployment picture more dire.
Sequestration took effect last week, and unemployment services are facing a double whammy.
George Copadis, commissioner of New Hampshire Employment Security, a federally funded state agency, said the state’s unemployment rate, which is about 5.6 percent right now, would jump to about 6.5 percent once the sequester takes hold, though not all at once. That amounts to about 6,300 lost jobs, with 3,600 of those jobs defense-related, he said. The number of unemployed people could rise even higher, considering many people who work in Massachusetts but live in New Hampshire would presumably face layoffs as well.
“Folks are losing positions at the same time we’re losing over $1 million from the budget,” Copadis said.
Employment Security will experience a 10-percent cut in services, impacting those who are currently unemployed. On top of that, with the sequester hitting anywhere and everywhere, unemployment in the state is only going to grow, further straining an already strained area. Hypothetically, if workloads were to remain constant — and no one expects them to — Employment Security could absorb the 10-percent hit on its own, Copadis said.
Copadis said his agency has sent a letter to the congressional delegation letting them know the impacts of sequestration.
“It’s kind of a collision course, a perfect storm,” said Mark MacKenzie, president of the New Hampshire AFL-CIO.
MacKenzie said many are wondering what will happen to unemployment benefits, benefits that have already been extended previously.
“Everybody we deal with lately is worried about their job,” MacKenzie said. “I don’t care if you work for the post office, which used to be pretty stable, fire, police … people who work for the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, which is productive — everybody is worried about their job.”
Sequestration would slash $744,407 from job training and employment services, impacting 6,104 people. An additional 4,912 workers would be hurt by cuts to the Department of Labor’s employment service, according to a report by U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa.
Employment Security’s job training fund would lose about $138,000, resulting in 4,900 fewer people getting “the help and skills needed to find employment,” Copadis said.
People who receive emergency unemployment compensation, of which there are 1,558 people now, would see a 10-percent reduction in compensation. Emergency unemployment compensation is an extension of standard unemployment benefits.
“We’re going to watch closely to see how much the impact is on all of our New Hampshire Works offices,” Copadis said, adding his agency may need to adjust staffing to accommodate demand.
“We’ll want to provide services as quickly as we can,” Copadis added.
Beyond the tangible impacts, the sequester has created economic uncertainty, not just for big banks and investors, but “everyday people who are beginning to realize there is a direct connection to the federal funding sources that help them maintain jobs,” MacKenzie said.
“You’ve got to give people an opportunity for security in the workforce,” MacKenzie said. “If you wake up and you’re worried about whether or not you’re going to have a job, that hurts everybody in a lot of different ways.”