Idaho Unemployment Drops Again In February


By Paul Johnson

Boise, Idaho ( KMVT-TV / KSVT-TV ) - Good news for Idaho. The states seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped another tenth of a percentage point in February to 5.3% the lowest rate in 5 and a half years. The decline, following a two-tenths of a point drop in January, came as the labor force participation rate – the percentage of the population 16 and older working or actively looking for work – fell a tenth of a percentage point to 63.7 percent. Idaho’s participation rate dropped just below 64 percent last October – the first time in over 30 years – and has been gradually sliding since, likely a reflection of the influx of retirees.

Nationally the unemployment rate ticked up a notch in February to 6.7 percent as the participation rate held steady at 63 percent. Idaho’s unemployment rate, which has dropped a full percentage point and a third in the last year, has been below the national rate for over 12 years.

Following January’s traditional post-holiday contraction, businesses in most sectors resumed adding jobs at a relatively strong clip, boosting payrolls by 6,500 in February. Total nonfarm jobs were 2 percent higher than the previous February, essentially maintaining growth rates that marked 2013 when only six other states had stronger job growth, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates.

February’s new hires, about evenly split between replacement workers and payroll additions, slipped below the level of 2013 at just over 13,000 but continued to approach the levels of early 2008.

Total employment set its sixth straight monthly record at 735,500, up 1,100 from January, and the number of workers without jobs dropped below 41,000 for the first time since August 2008. A year ago, Idaho employment stood at 723,600 with over 51,000 workers off the job.

The number of workers receiving weekly unemployment benefits also remained at its lowest levels since the long expansion of the 1990s. An average of 14,700 workers received benefits each week in February, down 21 percent from a year earlier while the payout of $16.6 million was 15 percent lower. In addition, another 5,600 workers on average received $5.6 million in federally financed extended benefits in February 2013. Extended benefits ended in December of 2013.
Half of Idaho’s 44 counties had rates below the state rate of 5.3 percent including Bannock, Nez Perce, Ada and Bonneville counties, the cores of four of the state’s five metropolitan areas. The fifth, Kootenai County, recorded a rate of 6.4 percent, up a tenth from January. Franklin had the lowest rate at 3.4 percent, down a half point from January.

All but Idaho’s two smallest counties – Camas and Clark – posted unemployment rates for February that were below year-earlier levels. As they did in January, three rural counties – Adams, Clearwater and Shoshone – recorded double-digit jobless rates for February of this year, but that was down from seven counties with double-digit rates for the same time last year. Clearwater maintained the highest rate at 11.7 percent, up two-tenths from January.

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