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Local jobless rate dips slightly to 4.7 percent

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Nathaniel Howell completes applications and resumes at the Idaho Department of labor in Post Falls on Friday. Kootenai County’s unemployment rate was 4.7 percent in March.

POST FALLS - When looking at the economic picture, Scott Krajack sees it much like peeking out the window on a typical unsettled North Idaho spring day.

It's a mixed bag, the Idaho sales manager for Viking Construction believes.

"Our first three months of 2015 are on pace to double what we built last year, although we do expect this market to cool down somewhat for the rest of the year," Krajack said. "We still expect the year-end totals to surpass last year."

But, he added, "I'm not as confident as others that the economy is fully recovered."

Kootenai County's jobless rate in March was 4.7 percent, down a tenth of a percent from February and from 6.2 percent last year at this time, according to an Idaho Department of Labor report released on Friday.

"The slight drop in unemployment rate was attributed to a strong-performing leisure and hospitality sector as the early spring hit ... up just over 8 percent (from February to March)," said Alivia Metts, Labor economist.

Preliminary non-farm employment is up nearly 6 percent over last year, Metts said.

"This trend has been keeping pace since August of last year," she said. "The sectors driving this are leisure and hospitality, construction and health care. Specialty trades is amongst the strongest performing sub-sectors in construction - it also took the hardest hit through the recession."

Darron Rock of Northwest Specialty Hospital in Post Falls said construction activities on multiple medical campuses in the region, including across the street from Northwest Specialty, are an indication that the local health care sector is thriving.

The state's unemployment rate in March was 3.8 percent (down a tenth of a percent from February), while the nation's was unchanged at 5.5 percent. It was the 67th straight month that the national rate has been higher than Idaho's.

Idaho's economic recovery continued with unemployment remaining at a seven-year low and businesses expanding payrolls to keep total employment at a record high, according to the Labor report. Another 5,400 workers found jobs.

"That was the largest one-month increase on record, pushing total employment over 757,000 for the first time," the report states.

Payrolls around the state maintained normal levels for February to March, according to the report. Construction saw the typical 3 percent increase in jobs from February while financial services added 200 jobs on top of 300 in February, a reflection of rising activity in the housing market.

A thousand new jobs in construction maintained employment on the higher-wage goods-production side of the economy, just under 15 percent, essentially unchanged from February. Trade, general trucking, private educational services, repair and other services and hotels, restaurants and bars all added workers at levels slightly above normal, the report states.

Shoshone County had the highest unemployment rate among the state's 44 counties at 7.5 percent.

No county had a rate higher than in March 2014.

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