Friday, March 19, 2010

Blaine unemployment above national average

Idaho’s jobless rate within one-tenth percent of record worst


By TREVON MILLIARD
Express Staff Writer

Express graphic Idaho’s unemployment rate, from January 2009 to present.

Idaho's unemployment rate increased to 9.5 percent in February, stopping just one-tenth short of the record 9.6 percent rate in 1982-83.

Blaine County managed to surpass that state record, reaching 9.8 percent unemployment in February, a 24 percent increase from January's 7.9 percent unemployment rate. But Blaine County wasn't even close to the worst off.

Of Idaho's 44 counties, 18 posted double-digit unemployment rates. Adams County saw the highest jobless rate of 17.7 percent, which was actually an improvement from January's 19.4 percent rate. Franklin County fared the best at 4.7 percent unemployment.

In comparison to the rest of the country, Idaho did two-tenths of a percent better than the nation's 9.7 percent jobless rate, but this is the closest Idaho has been to the national mark since the 2001 recession. Idaho's unemployment rate has steadily increased the past few years. In February 2007, it was a record low 2.7 percent. Exactly two years later, the rate had more than doubled to 6.9 percent. And it's still increasing.

Idaho started 2010 with a 9.3 percent unemployment rate that grew by two-tenths of a percent in February. That means the number of Idahoans looking for work increased by 1,500 in February, reaching 71,600 unemployed workers. This doesn't take into account those that have given up looking for work altogether. The work force only takes into account those either working or actively looking for work.

In Blaine County, the number of unemployed workers increased by 203 to 1,254. But the county's entire work force also decreased by about 4 percent, falling from 13,259 in January to 12,758 in February. This served to also increase the unemployment rate.

If the number of Blaine County residents either working or looking for work stayed constant at 13,259 from January to February, the unemployment rate would have increased to 9.4 percent instead of 9.8 percent.

But that wasn't the case, and these 203 workers either left the state or quit looking for work, excluding them from being counted in the work force.

Some good news did come out of the shortest month of the year.

The statewide labor force increased by 2,300 in February to 755,600, the eighth straight month that the number of people working or looking for work has increased. The Idaho Department of Labor said it could be a "sign of rising public optimism about job prospects."

Still, Idaho employers hired only 8,800 workers in January and only 8,300 more in February. Up until 2010, January and February new hires have averaged more than 13,500.

"The recession's erosion of jobs in Idaho appears to have stalled," said the state labor department, "but there was little movement toward rebuilding the employment base .... The failure of the economy to generate new jobs while the number of people looking for work has increased is behind the rising unemployment rate."

Trevon Milliard: tmilliard@mtexpress.com




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