County jobless rate drops

Idaho employment falls to lowest level in nearly a year

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POST FALLS - Kootenai County's unemployment rate dropped nearly half a percentage point in August.

The county's rate dipped from 7.8 to 7.4 percent, according to a report released on Friday by the Idaho Department of Labor.

"All indicators (such as labor force, unemployment and employment) went down, which led to Kootenai County's rate edging down month over month," said Alivia Metts, IDL regional economist.

"As for the winter months, third quarter is typically our peak quarter and then fourth quarter we start seeing the seasonal drops in employment. However, I think we will see a slight uptick year over year."

Metts said the optimism for the winter is based on recent trends of the economy improving.

"We've been seeing more year-over-year activity throughout this year already," she said.

The county's rate has been in the 7 percent range since April. The rate a year ago at this time was 9.1 percent.

The jobless rate in Coeur d'Alene was 7.1 percent in August, down two-tenths, while it was 7.2 percent in Post Falls, up a tenth.

Idaho's rate rose two-tenths to 6.8 percent in August as total employment dropped to its lowest level in nearly a year.

The state number has risen seven-tenths since April - one of the largest rate increases among the states in the past four months.

Nationally, unemployment fell another tenth of a point in August to 7.3 percent, down two-tenths from April.

Idaho's rate remained below the national rate for the 143rd month - one month short of 12 years.

In Benewah County, the jobless rate dropped four-tenths to 10.7 percent.

The number of Idaho workers without jobs in August was up 1,200 from July to nearly 52,300, the highest total since September 2012, while the number of people working in August fell 2,200 to just under 721,000, the lowest total in nearly a year.

Labor analysts estimate more Idahoans may be working multiple jobs to meet the hiring demands of employers and make ends meet at home.

In 2012, 24.2 percent of Idaho jobs were part-time, compared to 18.2 percent of all jobs before the recession. Only four other states - Maine, Oregon, Utah and Wisconsin - had higher percentages of part-time jobs.

Idaho employers across all industries were hiring at or slightly above normal levels for July to August, putting total jobs in August 2.6 percent ahead of a year earlier.

Labor analysts speculate employers are still concerned about the economic future at both the state and national levels. Only once in the more than 5.5 years since the recession began have employers hired more people in any month than they did during the same month in 2007.

Despite the state unemployment rate moving higher, unemployment benefit payments in August were down 39 percent with the number of claimants 36 percent lower than August 2012.

More than $10.2 million in state and federal benefits were paid to a weekly average of 10,700 claimants last month.

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