Idaho December jobless rate lowest in four years
January 20, 2013
Idaho’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate
dropped another two-tenths of a percentage point
in December to 6.6 percent - the lowest rate in
nearly four years.
The state’s jobless rate, which has dropped 2.3
percentage points in 17 months, fell in December
on the strength of rising employment. The labor
force expanded, albeit just fractionally, for
the first time since last May, and job
opportunities were sufficient to accommodate not
only 300 new entrants to the workforce but 1,500
workers who were previously without jobs. Rate
declines in recent months have been due in large
part to labor force contraction.
Employers maintained hiring at or above December
levels of the past five years, and the
improvement was felt throughout the state. Only
job levels in natural resources, administrative
support services and private educational
services slipped from the five-year average.
Idaho employers added more than than 12,000 new
hires to their payrolls during December, up 12
percent over December 2011 and the highest
December hiring total since the recession began.
But the hiring was almost entirely to fill
vacancies that occurred through firings,
retirements, deaths or other reasons rather than
After bumping along the recession bottom for
most of 2011, nonfarm jobs in Idaho began
increasing again in spring 2012, and by year’s
end averaged nearly 613,000, 1.1 percent higher
than in 2011. Idaho has recovered only 18
percent of the 50,000 jobs lost to the recession
on an annual average basis, and it is likely the
rest will not be regained until 2015.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics will
reassess the employment figures for the past
year over the next six weeks, using more current
information on unemployment claims, payrolls and
other factors before issuing revised jobless
data in late March. Employment data from January
and February 2013 will be released at the same
Preliminary figures put the average unemployment
rate for 2012 at 7.4 percent, 1.3 percentage
points below 2011 and the lowest annual average
since 2008. Over 13,000 more workers had jobs in
December than a year earlier while the ranks of
the unemployed were down nearly 14,000.
December marked 11 years and three months that
the Idaho unemployment rate has been below the
national rate, which held steady in December at
The Conference Board, a Washington, D.C.,
business think tank, estimates there are still
slightly more than two workers for every job
posted in Idaho, but that is down dramatically
from nearly five for every posting during the
worst of the recession in late 2009.
And while December posted a labor force
increase, it was the smallest November-December
increase in the last 36 years. There were three
Decembers where the labor force actually
declined from November – during the current
recession in 2008 and in the mid-1980s
Idaho’s December labor force also had 500 fewer
workers than the previous December. The recent
recession is the only other time that a
year-over-year decline occurred in December in
the last three decades.
Regular unemployment insurance benefit payments
of $14.7 million in December were paid to an
average of 14,000 idled workers a week. That was
down over 20 percent from December 2011. In
addition $6.7 million in federal extended
benefits were paid to an average of 6,700
workers a week, about half the federal payments
and claimants a year earlier.
For the year, the state paid $180.5 million in
regular benefits and another $118 million in
federally financed extended benefits to over
80,000 idled Idaho workers in 2012, more than 10
percent of the workforce. But the payout was 29
percent less than 2011 and the lowest since 2007
before the recession.
Only five rural counties – all in northern and
north central Idaho – posted double-digit
jobless rates in December, down from six in
November and 13 in December 2011.
Resource-reliant Adams County remained the
county with the highest rate at 15.4 percent,
but it was down another seven-tenths from
Boundary County was not included in that list,
with a preliminary December unemployment rate of
9.6-percent, up slightly from November's
9.3-percent, but considerably better than a year
ago, when the December unemployment rate stood
at 11.9-percent with 573 people listed as
unemployed, compared to 465 last month.
A large part of the improvement is attributed to
the number of county residents who've left the
county to seek work in the past year,
particularly in the oil fields of North Dakota.
"It is too bad little towns are hit so bad
economy wise," said county native Janice
Graupner, now living in Williston, North Dakota
where her husband, Brad, works. "I am amazed how
many Idaho people I run into and the license
plates i see!"
Twenty-one of Idaho’s 44 counties reported
jobless rates below 6 percent, up from 14 in
November and just five a year ago. Oneida County
recorded the lowest rate at four percent and was
joined by six others with rates under fiuve
Every county had lower December rates than a
year earlier except for Custer, which was hit by
molybdenum mine layoffs.
Idaho’s five metropolitan areas also had rates
below both November and December 2011.
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