Friday, December 6, 2013

Idaho employment stabilizes in September, October

Idaho employers maintained jobs at or above normal levels in September and October, and total employment rose fractionally, injecting some stability into the economy as the state approached the holiday season.

The state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was unchanged from August to September at 6.8 percent, and then slipped to 6.7 percent in October, ending an upward trend that saw the rate increase seven-tenths of a percentage point from April through August - the second largest percentage point increase in the nation. Massachusetts rose eight-tenths of a point in the same period.

Locally, unemployment rates saw miniscule changes. Clearwater County’s rate increased by .2 percent, up to 13.3 from September’s rate of 13.1 percent. From August to September the rate stayed at 13.1. Last October Clearwater County’s unemployment rate was 12.5 percent.

Lewis County’s unemployment rate dropped incrementally to 6.2 percent, from September’s rate of 6.3 percent. Last October’s rate was also 6.2 percent. Nez Perce County also saw an incremental decrease, from 5.9 down to 5.7. In October of 2012 the rate was also 5.7.

Idaho County ticked up to 9.6 percent, from September’s rate of 9.5 percent. Last October Idaho County was at 8.7 percent, and in August of this year it was 9.1 percent.

Nationally unemployment dropped in September to 7.2 percent and then increased in October to 7.3 percent, reflecting the temporary layoff of federal employees during the government shutdown the first 16 days of October.

Idaho’s rate has been below the national rate for a full 12 years.

The number of Idaho workers without jobs rose slightly in September before falling more than 1,000 to 51,400 in October - the fourth straight month unemployment has been above 50,000.

At the same time, total employment was up 300 over the two months to exceed 721,000 but remained slightly below employment levels of October 2012 when the rate was 6.6 percent.

Although Idaho’s labor force saw a slight increase in September from August, it fell by 900 in October. That combined with the marginal increase in employment was enough to push the jobless rate down.

Idaho employers added 4,000 jobs in September, slightly above the 10-year average of 3,700 that included both a strong expansion and a severe recession. Job losses held to just 300 in October, when the number of jobs typically drops 2,200, based on the average over the last 10 years. Goods producers added several hundred jobs in October when they typically cut employment, primarily in construction, and the service sector kept job cuts to 80 percent of the 10-year average loss.

Total nonfarm jobs for October were 2.3 percent higher than in October 2012, down from a 2.6 percent year-over-year spread in September. October’s numbers likely reflected the shutdown of the federal government and economic uncertainty it created.

Businesses reported hiring nearly 20,000 people in October, the second highest total for any month since the expansion ended in December 2007 and the highest October total since 2000. Nearly all of those jobs were replacement jobs. Combined with the decline in the labor force, the numbers reflect the increasing size of Idaho’s population 55 years old and over – 25.3 percent in 2012, up from 19.6 percent in 2000.

Idaho’s labor force participation rate, which is the share of adults working or actively looking for work, dropped below 64 percent in October for the first time since 1981. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the share of Idaho households where neither spouse is in the labor force increased from 16.5 percent in 2007 to 20.1 percent in 2011 - the largest percentage point increase of any state during the recession and above the national rate of 19.7 percent for the first time.

The national labor force participation rate in October was 62.9 percent, the lowest since May 1978.

As Idaho’s employment picture stabilized and began to decrease, October’s unemployment benefit payments were down 37 percent with the number of claimants 40 percent lower than October 2012. Nearly $9 million in state and federal benefits were paid to a weekly average of 8,800 claimants in October. Just over a quarter of the payments were federally financed extended benefits, which will cease at the end of the year. An average of 2,600 people a week received federal extended benefits in October.

A year ago, over $14.2 million in state and federal benefits were paid to a weekly average of 14,500 claimants. Almost 44 percent of the payments were federally financed extended benefits.

At the depth of the recession in March 2009, an average of 50,000 workers a week received $54 million in state and federal benefits.

Thirty-five of the 44 counties posted declines in their unemployment rates from September to October, as did all five metropolitan areas.

The same six rural resource-dependent counties that have been reporting double-digit rates continued to do so in September and October. Adams County again posted the highest rate at 14.5 percent in October, down slightly from September.

Twenty counties recorded rates below 6 percent led by Oneida and Franklin at 4 percent. That was up from 15 counties with sub-6 percent rates in September.

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