FILE - NH Job Openings, unemployment, jobless, labor 12-10-2020

A "Now Hiring" sign hangs on the front wall of a Harbor Freight Tools store Dec. 10, 2020, in Manchester, New Hampshire.

(The Center Square) – New unemployment claims in New Hampshire ticked up slightly last week, according to the U.S. Department of Labor's weekly report.

At least 722 new applications for benefits were filed for the week that ended May 22 –  an increase of 347 from the previous week, the federal agency reported. 

There were 52 new claims last week for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, a federally backed program that covers workers who don't qualify for state unemployment benefits, in the week that ended May 22. That's an increase of seven claims over the prior week.

Meanwhile, 16,745 continuing state jobless claims – which lag behind a week but are viewed as a barometer of the unemployment situation – were filed in the week ending May 15, decreasing by 883 over the previous week.  

The state has paid out more than $1.8 billion in federal and state unemployment benefits since mid-March, when the COVID-19 outbreak began.

New Hampshire's jobless rate dropped slightly to 2.8% in April, according to the New Hampshire Employment Security, one of the lowest rates in the nation.

Gov. Chris Sununu has taken steps in recent weeks to lure workers back to their jobs amid a shortage of labor as the state eases COVID-19 restrictions and reopens its economy.

Sununu said the state is bringing back a work search requirement, offering $500 to $1,000 bonuses for workers if they get a job and keep it for at least eight weeks.

He also announced this week that beginning June 19 New Hampshire will no longer be participating in federal unemployment programs including a $300 per week benefit.

Employers have complained that generous unemployment benefits have given some laid-off workers more income from federal and state payments than they normally make on the job, which has made it harder to bring those people back to work.

Nationally, 406,000 new jobless claims were filed in the week that ended May 22, a decrease of 38,000 claims from the previous week, according to the Labor Department. That's the lowest level for new claims since the week of March 14, 2020, the federal agency said.

Continuing claims increased by 96,000 to about 3.64 million nationally for the week that ended May 15, the federal agency said.

Despite improving economic conditions, more than 15.8 million Americans were still receiving state or federal jobless benefits in the week ending May 8.