Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Unemployment up in North Central Idaho

Unemployment rates ticked up between April and May throughout north central Idaho, as they did in the state and nation. Every county in the region saw its unemployment rate increase in April and May.

Despite the increases, the unemployment rates for all the counties, except Latah, remained below their May 2011 rates. About half of the increase was the result of the weather, which remained cooler and rainier than normal, affecting logging, construction, and trucking. The other half was the result of service-providing companies affected by national economic conditions.

Clearwater County’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate jumped from 13.4 percent in April to 15.0 percent - the highest rate of Idaho’s 44 counties in May. The jump was related to the cold, rainy weather in May.

Logging activity remained curtailed in some areas by cool, wet weather, while normally spring break-up would be over by May. Despite the jump, the county’s rate remained below its rate of 16.3 percent in May 2011, when cold, rainy weather also was keeping a lot of loggers, truckers, and construction crews from working.

Nightforce Optics and Tri Pro Cedar Products have been the brightest spots in the county’s economy, adding more than 60 jobs between May 2011 and May 2012.

Idaho County’s unemployment rate increased from 9.9 percent in April to 10.5 percent in May largely because of weather conditions. That rate was significantly lower than the 11.6 percent in May 2011. Manufacturing, wholesale, health care, and retail all added jobs in the last year, while government and construction continued to lose jobs.

Latah County’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose from 6.6 percent in April to 7.4 percent in May. Latah County was the only county in north central Idaho, whose unemployment rate this May was higher than the year before. Its unemployment rate in May 2011 was 7.2 percent.

Logging and agricultural-related activity were below their normal May levels, contributing to the unemployment rate rise. Also contributing were the difficulties that college students were encountering in finding summer jobs or new graduates were encountering in starting their careers.

So, much of the increased unemployment in Latah County is the result of job weakness elsewhere that didn’t allow college students to go somewhere else for summer jobs or recent graduates to move elsewhere to start their careers.

In Latah County, sectors adding jobs, created about 260 more new jobs than sectors losing jobs destroyed between May 2011 and May 2012. Total nonfarm payroll jobs are estimated to have grown about two percent in Latah County.

Lewis County’s unemployment rate rose from 5.8 percent in April to 6.0 percent in May, as weather conditions dam-pened construction, logging, and agricultural activity. The county’s rate was slightly higher a year ago—7.1 percent in May 2011.

Nez Perce County’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose from 6.7 percent in April to 6.9 percent in May. Most of its increased unemployment was the result of job losses at service-providing companies that are tied to national markets. Its manufacturing sector—including ATK, Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories, and Howells–continued to add jobs between April and May.

Employment in most other sectors is generally remaining the same with a fairly even mix of businesses adding jobs and losing jobs. Of the 82 Nez Perce County employers that answered a monthly employment survey, 16 added jobs between April and May – a total of 95 jobs, while 57 did not change their employment levels and nine lost jobs – a total of 118 jobs.

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