Friday, June 28, 2013

May unemployment edges up to 6.2 percent amid influx of job seekers

Idaho’s labor force increased by 1,100 workers last month - the largest number in over a year - pushing the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate from 6.1 percent in April to 6.2 percent for May.

It was the first monthly increase in the unemployment rate since June 2011 when the rate hit 8.5 percent, just short of a post-recession 8.8 percent, before beginning a steady two-year decline.

The number of workers off the job rose 900 to 47,500, erasing April’s decline.
The tenth of a percentage point increase in the Idaho rate matched the uptick in the national rate to 7.6 percent in May. But Idaho’s rate was still more than a percentage point below the May 2012 rate of 7.3 percent, and May marked the 140th straight month Idaho’s rate has been below the national average.

Clearwater County’s May rate, while still in the double digits at 11.3 percent, was down from 12.6 percent in April, and down from 14.6 percent in May of 2012.

Nez Perce’s County’s rate of 5.6 percent remained the same from April to May. Last May it was 5.9 percent.

Lewis County’s unemployment rate ticked up to 5.9 percent, from April’s rate of 4.4 percent, though it too was lower than last May’s rate, which was 6.2 percent.

May’s labor force expansion ended a four-month decline of 4,000 to October 2011 levels even though Idaho’s economy was beginning to add jobs at a decent rate. The labor force decline raised analyst’s questions about the state’s ability to staff a sustained job expansion, but an influx of new workers – the largest one-month gain since November 2011 – may indicate renewed optimism about Idaho’s economic recovery and its ability to generate jobs.

A modest pickup in hiring by employers increased employment by 300 from April to more than 724,300 after falling for the three straight months. Employers reported hiring over 18,200 workers for both existing and new jobs, the third strongest May on record and just 500 hires short of the May peak in 2007.

All major sectors of the economy except private education services reported increasing payrolls from April to May, and nearly all were at rates higher than average over the past 10 years. Education services dropped 300 jobs from April, reflecting the winding down of the traditional school year.

Overall private sector jobs were running nearly three percent ahead of May 2012 while government, where the impact of recent federal budget cuts was beginning to be felt, was just two-tenths of a percentage point ahead of May 2012. Total jobs were 2.3 percent higher than a year earlier but still 3 percent below the pre-recession peak and unlikely to make up that ground before 2015.

Total employment across Idaho was 7,300 higher than in May 2012 while the number of unemployed was 8,900 lower than a year earlier. The most recent report from The Conference Board found two idled workers for every job posting in Idaho, well below the nearly five-to-one ratio posted during the depths of the recession.

Idaho’s economic improvement has brought a dramatic decline in unemployment insurance benefits of more than 50 percent over the year. An average of nearly 13,900 idled workers received $13.3 million in jobless benefits in May – $3.7 million of that in federal extended benefits – compared to nearly 29,000 who received $28.6 million in benefits in May 2012. Over $13 million of that was in federal extended benefits, which end in December. About 4,100 claimants were receiving federally financed benefits in May.

At the depth of the recession in March 2009, 61,000 workers received $66 million in state and federal benefits.

Eleven of Idaho’s 44 counties posted lower rates in May than in April, led by a five point decline in Power County, which had a temporary food processing layoff in April. Rates in three counties were unchanged.

Compared to May 2012, lower rates were posted in all but six rural counties – Camas, Lemhi, Oneida, Bear Lake, Owyhee and Custer.

Just three resource-dependent counties reported double-digit rates – Adams at 12.4 percent, Clearwater at 11.3 percent and Shoshone at 10.6. Six counties had double-digit rates in April.

Twenty counties had rates under 6 percent, led by Franklin County at 3.4 percent. Twenty-two counties had rates under 6 percent in April.

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