Friday, October 19, 2012

Eastern Idaho unemployment outpaces rest of state

Idaho’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate plunged another three-tenths of a percentage point to 7.1 percent in September, and eastern Idaho's numbers continued to outpace the rest of the state.

The Idaho Falls Metropolitan Statistical Area reported an unemployment rate of 5.9 percent, down from 7.3 percent in September 2011. The city of Rexburg reported a rate of 5.0 percent , down from 5.7 in September 2011.

While it was the lowest rate since May 2009, it came with a fourth straight month of a shrinking labor force and the first August-September labor force decline since the 1986 recession.

Employers across the state expanded September payrolls from August at a higher rate than the past five years and at a slightly faster pace than they did during the expansion from 2003 through 2007.

Another 1,200 workers were on the job in September, pushing total employment to 720,600 – its highest level in four years – and breaking a two-month employment slide. Total nonfarm jobs were 1.2 percent above September 2011, marking the fifth straight month that jobs have totaled at least a percentage point higher than a year earlier.

Unemployment benefit payments dropped 36 percent in September from September 2011, and the number of claimants averaged 15,000 during the month, down 37 percent from nearly 24,000 a year ago. Benefits for more than a third of those claimants expire at the end of the year.

The combination was a sign of slow but sustainable growth that could persist even in the face of economic setbacks, the Idaho Department of Labor reported.

The drop in Idaho’s jobless rate matched the three-tenths of a point decline in the national rate to 7.8 percent and marked 11 full years that the state rate has been lower than the national rate.

Except for construction and information, all major industrial sectors saw larger payrolls this fall than a year ago. But nonfarm jobs overall remained below the 2005 levels, and construction and manufacturing job totals matched the early 1990s. Total jobs are not expected to recover to pre-recession levels until 2015.