Wednesday, November 5, 2014

September jobless rate falls as labor force declines

None of Idaho’s 44 counties saw unemployment rates reach double digits during September. Franklin County was the only county where unemployment rose between August and September, from 2.4 percent to 2.6 percent.

Six counties had rates below 3 percent, the lowest in Oneida at 2.5 percent. May of 2008 was the last time six or more counties experienced rates that low.

Clearwater County had the highest unemployment rate for September at 7.6 percent, down 1.4 percentage points from August. Last September it was 11.5 percent.

Lewis County’s September rate was 3 percent, down from 4.4 percent in August, and from last September’s rate of 5.5 percent.

Idaho County’s September rate dropped to 5.5, down from August’s 6 percent, and down from 8.4 percent in September 2013.

Nez Perce County’s rate for September was 3.6 percent, down a little from August’s rate of 4.1 percent. Last September’s rate in Nez Perce County was 5.1 percent.

Idaho’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell to 4.5 percent in September, its lowest level since May 2008. Last year September’s unemployment rate was 6 percent.

The state’s two-tenths of a percentage point drop in unemployment from August mirrored the national rate’s drop to 5.9 percent. September marked 13 full years that Idaho’s jobless rate has been below the national rate.

Employers across most Idaho sectors scaled back hiring in September, but still generated another 3,800 jobs, just below September’s 10-year average. New hires, primarily to fill existing job openings, approached 20,000, the highest September level since 2006.

Total employment remained essentially unchanged from August at just over 741,000 while the number of workers without jobs fell below 35,000 for the first time in more than six years, essentially accounting for the decline in the labor force.

Nearly 2,100 workers left the statewide labor force – many likely returning to school - making September’s labor force decline the largest one-month drop since February 2010. The state’s labor force participation rate – the percentage of working-age adults working or actively looking for work – fell to 63.3 percent, the lowest level since August 1976.

Since the series of severe recessions between 1980 and 1986 Idaho’s labor force declined only one other time between August and September – in 2013. Total employment also rose markedly from August to September in every other year except 2008 to 2010 during the recession.

Construction, manufacturing, hotels and restaurants and bars maintained employment levels slightly higher than normal for September, but the rest of the economy slipped against the five-year average. Services sector jobs, which pay an average of $12,000 a year less than goods production jobs, edged up three-tenths of a point to 84.5 percent.

Almost 12,700 more people were working in September than a year earlier, even though total employment has remained essentially flat since May. Total employment experienced similar stability during the same period in 2013, reflecting how gradual the recovery is occurring across the state.

Unemployment insurance benefit payments continued to run below year-earlier levels in September, totaling $6 million to a weekly average of 5,400 jobless workers. That compared to $6.5 million in regular benefits paid to a weekly average of 6,500 workers in September 2013 plus another $2.5 million in federally financed benefits to a weekly average of 2,800. Federally funded benefits ended at the close of 2013.

In addition to the six counties below 3 percent, another 21 counties and all five metropolitan areas had rates less than the statewide rate of 4.5 percent.

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