Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Idaho jobless rate drops to 7.1 percent

Number is lowest since May 2009

Express Staff Writer

Idaho’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate plunged another three-tenths of a percentage point to 7.1 percent in September—the lowest rate since May 2009. However, it came with a fourth straight month of a shrinking labor force.

According to the Idaho Department of Labor, employers across the state expanded September payrolls from August at a higher rate than the past five years and at a slightly faster pace than they did during the expansion from 2003 through 2007. 

Another 1,200 workers were on the job in September, pushing total employment to 720,600—its highest level in four years. Total nonfarm jobs were 1.2 percent above September 2011, marking the fifth straight month that jobs have totaled at least a percentage point higher than a year earlier.

The number of claimants for unemployment benefits averaged 15,000 during the month, down 37 percent from nearly 24,000 a year ago.

According to the Department of Labor, the combination was a sign of slow but sustainable growth that could persist even in the face of economic setbacks. 

The drop in Idaho’s jobless rate matched the three-tenths of a point decline in the national rate to 7.8 percent.

Total unemployment in Idaho fell 1,800 to just over 55,000. In the past 14 months, Idaho’s unemployment rate has dropped from 8.9 percent to 7.1 percent. The last time there was such a rapid decline was in 1988 during the recovery from the three recessions that marked the early and mid-1980s.

Total employment was over 16,000 higher than a year ago, and there were 12,000 fewer unemployed.

But the loss of another 500 people from the labor force continued a contraction unmatched during Idaho’s summer peak employment season. Over 6,000 workers have left the labor force since May despite improved hiring prospects. The worst labor force exodus occurred between October 2008 and May 2009 when 9,100 people dropped out.

Except for construction and information, all major industrial sectors saw larger payrolls this fall than a year ago. Bu total jobs are not expected to recover to pre-recession levels until 2015.

Twenty-nine of Idaho’s 44 counties and all five metropolitan areas posted lower jobless rates in September than in August, and every county but Camas had a lower rate than a year ago.

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