FILE - New Hampshire Jobless Employment

Job seekers line up outside the New Hampshire Works employment security job center, Monday, May 10, 2021, in Manchester, N.H. 

(The Center Square) – New Hampshire's unemployment rate dropped slightly to 2.5% in May, according to the newly released figures that show the state's labor market improving.

The preliminary, seasonally adjusted unemployment rate last month dropped by 0.3 percentage points from April's 2.8% rate, New Hampshire Employment Security said in a report.

That's the lowest unemployment rate in the Granite State since the outbreak began a year ago, and one of the lowest jobless rates dating back to the mid-1970s. 

Gov. Chris Sununu said the latest employment data shows that "New Hampshire's economy is roaring back to life" following the pandemic. 

"Such low unemployment rates are no accident, but are the result of a continued effort to provide businesses with the flexibility needed to grow, while providing individuals with the incentives and resources needed to return to work," the Republican said in a statement. "New Hampshire’s economy is well-positioned to make further economic gains throughout the year that will serve to benefit communities and families across the Granite State." 

New Hampshire's unemployment rate rose to more than 13% last May as tens of thousands of workers were sidelined to prevent the spread of the virus.

The number of unemployed workers dropped by 2,770 from April to May to 18,610, the state agency said, and there were 84,020 fewer unemployed workers in May than a year ago. 

Meanwhile, there were 735,180 people employed in the state in May, the agency said. That's a decrease of 710 from the previous month, and up by 70,970 from a year ago.

Overall, New Hampshire's labor market has been steadily improving in recent months even as other New England states struggle to rebuild their economies.

There were 587 new claims for state unemployment benefits for the week that ended June 5 — a drop of 319 from the previous week, according to the U.S. Department of Labor's weekly report. Meanwhile, 13,789 continuing claims — a barometer of the unemployment situation — were filed in the week ending May 29, declining by 2,091 over the previous week.  

The state has paid out more than $1.8 billion in federal and state unemployment benefits since March 2020, when the COVID-19 outbreak began.

Like most states, New Hampshire is facing a hiring crunch with tens of thousands of jobs unfilled as the busy summer tourist season approaches.

The Sununu administration has taken steps to lure workers back to their jobs amid a shortage of labor as the state lifts remaining COVID-19 restrictions and fully reopens its economy.

Those actions include hosting job fairs and bringing back a work search requirement and offering workers $500 to $1,000 bonuses if they get a job and keep it for at least eight weeks.

The national unemployment rate decreased by 0.3% to 5.8% in February, according to preliminary data from the U.S. Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics.