By Doug Ireland
---- — SALEM — Fewer New Hampshire residents are out of work than in most states.
But the New Hampshire Department of Employment Security wants to get even more people back to work. To that end, the department is increasing the number of job fairs it offers across the state.
The national unemployment rate for May was 7.6 percent, but New Hampshire stood at 5.3, ranking 10th.
Previous job fairs have paid off, helping to lower the state’s unemployment rate as employers get more of a chance to meet and hire prospective employees, according to NHDES Commissioner George Copadis.
Although NHDES has been organizing job fairs for years, Copadis said, the number has more than doubled since he took over a year ago.
“I just think it’s a much better (situation) when you get employers and employees under the same roof,” he said. “We’re finding they’re really successful at such events — everyone is looking for good employees to hire.”
Twenty-one job fairs are being offered this year compared to less than 10 in 2012 and 2011, Copadis said.
These include a job fair Tuesday in Salem. More than 40 employers will be at Mount Washington College, formerly Hesser College, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Another job fair is scheduled for July 25 in Littleton.
It’s hoped the Salem event will lead to jobs for many Southern New Hampshire residents, Copadis said.
“In the Salem area, the unemployment rate is a little higher than other areas,” he said.
Of New Hampshire’s 27 labor market areas, Salem and Berlin were tied for second with a 7.2 percent unemployment rate for May. Colebrook led the list with a jobless rate of 8.3 percent.
Gov. Maggie Hassan said job fairs like the one in Salem provide an excellent opportunity for New Hampshire’s jobless.
“Events like the Salem job fair, which connect New Hampshire’s talented workers with employers looking to hire, are an invaluable part of our efforts to strengthen our innovation economy,” Hassan said in a statement. “By supporting and hosting this job and resource fair, New Hampshire Employment Security is helping to build a stronger, more innovative New Hampshire.”
Copadis said some people are leaving the fairs with jobs and many others are contacted later and then hired, he said. That wasn’t happening too often only a couple of years ago, he said.
An improving economy has brightened the hopes and job prospects of many unemployed workers, Copadis said.
The state’s unemployment rate recently dropped from 5.7 percent, Copadis said. The number of New Hampshire residents filing for unemployment benefits dropped from 1,916 at this time last year to 1,351, he said.
“Some people who gave up are coming out right now,” Copadis said.
A recent job fair in Manchester drew 800 people, he said.
“There were 100 people in line waiting for us to open the doors,” Copadis said.
That event featured 79 employers offering 2,200 jobs in a variety of career fields, he said.
While the Salem job fair will feature many national employers, such as CVS Pharmacy and Macy’s, representatives from locally based companies will be on hand as well.
They include Wakefield-Vette in Pelham; Josh’s Toys & Games, which has a location in Salem; and Liberty Utilities, which has corporate offices in Salem.
Liberty spokesman John Shore said the state’s job fairs have been a great resource for his company, which employs 200 people in New Hampshire.
“We have attended the job fairs in the past and found they have been very useful,” he said. “We’ve seen a great number of highly qualified employees and hired some.”
Liberty is looking to fill several management and temporary positions, Shore said.