CONCORD, N.H. >> There's good news and bad news for New Hampshire's low unemployment rate: It's the second-lowest in the country, but it's creating a problem for some companies that want to hire and can't find the skilled workers they need.

New Hampshire's unemployment rate is 2.6 percent in March, behind South Dakota's of 2.5 percent. New Hampshire last reached this rate in early 2000.

Bruce DeMay of the New Hampshire Department of Employment Security said Monday the state has gained back most of the jobs it has lost during the recession and it has a very high labor force participation rate.

"It's been a real strong recovery," he said. "It took us only one year to add 20,000 unemployed individuals when the recession hit," in 2008.

Business and employment representatives say the manufacturing, high-tech and health care industries are among those having difficulty finding specialized workers for their fields.

Richard Lavers, deputy commissioner of the Employment Security Department, said nurses and truck drivers are the two top positions sought. He said efforts are underway to create apprenticeships for trucking positions, for example, that lead to hiring.

Lavers said the department looks at the incredibly low rate as a catalyst for growth. "People look at is as there are jobs in New Hampshire. There's work to be done."


But that makes things difficult for recruiters like John Whelan of the Bedford, N.H.-based Alexander Technology Group. He has worked to staff tech firms for 18 years and never seen things so tight. He has heard similar stories with his agency's sister staffing firms which recruit for accounting and finance, sales, human resources and administrative jobs.

"It creates an incredibly competitive job market," Whelan said. "There is a ton of demand and very low supply. It makes it very difficult for clients to compare multiple candidates in a small or short interview cycle. When companies are looking to fill a job, sometimes they like to see three or four candidates. In years past, that might be possible. But especially in technology which is very niche, they don't have that luxury so that sometimes can make the hiring process a little bit stagnant."

Whelan said he doesn't expect to see the tightness ease "anytime soon," adding that it will probably only change when companies consider increasing compensation and other benefits for prospective candidates. As a result, that could expand the talent pool and attract "people from a broader market who will travel a little further."