New Hampshire Relays Good News for Higher Education Employment

A report from the New Hampshire Employment Security paints a cheerier picture for higher education employment than February’s release of the unadjusted Current Employment Statistics. The NHES ran the dataset through its formulas which showed that because the number of jobs prior to 2008 were smaller than was originally reported, the differential between the number of jobs available now and five years ago isn’t as large as previously thought — and there’s a surprising boost in private higher education employment.

Still, prior to the 2008 economic recession, the private sector was producing about 9,300 additional jobs that have been lost as a result of the economic collapse. In addition to private sector job losses, more than 2,500 public sector jobs have also disappeared over this period.

Although the report relays bad news for jobs in sectors like construction, there was an unexpected silver lining in private higher education. According to NHES economist Annette Nielsen, this increasing demand for education workers is the realization that college degrees are becoming vital for future employment, along with the pressure created by the lackluster employment market pushing students to remain in school past the time when they’d hoped to graduate.

For example, those with associate’s degrees might wish to wait out an unwelcome employment climate by continuing to a bachelor’s degree, while those with a four-year degree are using the same kind of thinking to justify enrolling in a graduate program.

There’s also a small demand from people who are using the hiring lull to go back to school to retrain in a different profession that might prove to be more recession-proof.

Health care and Social Assistance is another sector that has grown through the recession, as the baby boomer population reaches retirement age. In addition, and perhaps connected to the previous category, the Leisure and Hospitality sector continues to add jobs, albeit at a slow pace. Finally, as mentioned above, Government jobs are down 2,500 over the five-year period. There is more to this than meets the eye, though. There are 7,300 federal jobs today, 500 fewer than in 2008; there are 13,200 state education jobs in February 2013, up 1,300 since 2008; there are 13,000 (non educational) state jobs, which is down 800 over five years, and local government, which had 63,500 people in 2008, has 61,000 today, as towns and cities struggle to balance budgets.

Higher education contributed to the improving unemployment numbers in one other way. The February 2013 unemployment rate for New Hampshire decreased by .4% to 6.1% thanks in part to colleges and universities reopening for their spring terms, thus boosting employment in businesses that derive some of their income from servicing students who are returning to their campuses.