This New Hampshire City Has the Highest Unemployment Rate In The State

New Hampshire, known for its stunning fall foliage, its motto of “Live Free or Die,” and its historically low unemployment rate, has recently faced a more complex economic reality. While the state’s unemployment rate hovers around 2.6%, the small city of Keene stands out with a significantly higher rate. This disparity begs the question: Why does Keene have the highest unemployment rate in New Hampshire?

Nestled in the southwestern corner of the state, Keene boasts a rich history dating back to the 1730s. Once a thriving mill town known for its furniture and paper production, Keene has grappled with the challenges of a changing economy.

A City in Transition: The Decline of Industry

Keene’s economic woes stem largely from the decline of its once-dominant manufacturing industries. The furniture industry, a cornerstone of Keene’s economy for over a century, faced fierce competition from overseas markets with lower production costs. Paper mills, another significant employer, also struggled due to environmental regulations and the shift towards digital communication.

The fallout from these industrial declines was significant. Thousands of jobs were lost, leaving many skilled workers unemployed and struggling to adapt to the new economic landscape. The city’s tax base shrunk, further limiting resources for revitalization efforts.

The Skills Gap: A Hurdle to Reemployment

While the decline of manufacturing is a major factor, the skills gap between the workforce and the current job market is another hurdle to reemployment in Keene. The educational system, historically geared towards manufacturing trades, may not be adequately preparing students for the demands of today’s tech-driven economy.

While some retraining programs exist, unemployed workers often face challenges in accessing them. The cost of training, coupled with the need to support families during job transitions, can create significant barriers.

Hope on the Horizon: Potential Solutions for Keene

The situation in Keene might seem daunting, but there’s reason for hope. Several potential solutions can help the city address its unemployment challenges and build a more robust economy for the future.

A. Retraining and Education Initiatives: Equipping the Workforce for the Future

Equipping Keene’s workforce with the skills needed for in-demand jobs is crucial. Successful retraining programs from other cities offer valuable insights.

Manchester, New Hampshire, for instance, has implemented a program where community colleges collaborate with local manufacturers to provide targeted training for unemployed workers. This ensures graduates possess the specific skills required by employers, increasing their chances of landing jobs.

In Keene, similar collaborations between educational institutions and local businesses can be explored. By understanding the skillsets needed for current job openings, Keene’s educational system can adapt its curriculum to better prepare students for the workforce.

B. Attracting New Industries: Diversifying the Economic Landscape

While revitalizing existing industries is important, attracting new ones is essential for long-term economic growth. Keene needs to take steps to make itself an attractive destination for businesses.

Offering tax breaks or streamlined permitting processes can incentivize businesses to set up shop in Keene. The city can also leverage its existing assets, such as its well-educated workforce and beautiful natural surroundings, to attract companies seeking a high quality of life for their employees.

Furthermore, Keene can target specific industries that align with its current workforce’s skillset and infrastructure. For example, the city could focus on attracting businesses in the advanced manufacturing sector, which often requires skilled labor but not necessarily a four-year college degree.

C. Community Support: Building Resilience Together

The impact of unemployment extends far beyond financial hardship. Job loss can lead to feelings of isolation, despair, and a decline in mental health. A strong support system within the community is crucial during challenging times.

Several community-based organizations in Keene already play a vital role in supporting unemployed individuals. Job training workshops can equip people with the skills they need to find new employment. Mental health resources can provide much-needed support during periods of transition and uncertainty.

Investing in and strengthening these existing programs demonstrates the community’s commitment to its residents. Furthermore, fostering a sense of camaraderie and shared purpose can bolster resilience and hope during challenging times.

Conclusion: A Brighter Future for Keene

The high unemployment rate in Keene is a complex issue with no easy solutions. However, by understanding the root causes, such as the decline of manufacturing and the skills gap, the city can develop a roadmap for economic recovery.

Investing in retraining programs, attracting new industries, and strengthening the community support system are all crucial steps towards a brighter future for Keene. By working together, the city’s residents, businesses, and policymakers can create a more robust and diversified economy that provides opportunities for everyone.

Keene’s rich history and strong sense of community are valuable assets. By leveraging these strengths and embracing innovation, Keene can overcome its current challenges and emerge as a thriving economic hub once again.


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MBS Staff
Articles: 7042

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