Idaho employers maintained hiring at normal levels in April, but another 1,300 people left the state labor force, driving both employment and unemployment down to keep the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate stable at 6.1 percent.
In Blaine County, the unemployment rate in April was 5.5 percent, with an estimated 667 people unemployed out of a workforce of 12,070. That figure is down from 6.5 percent in April 2012.
April saw the fourth straight monthly decline in the state’s labor force—a combination of those working and those actively seeking work—dropping the total labor force to under 771,000, the lowest level since October 2011.
Total employment was down by another 500 from March and 1,500 from January, despite employers’ generating 17,000 new jobs since the beginning of the year. At the same time, while the ranks of the unemployed dropped another 800 from March, 2,100 from January and 10,000 from April 2012, total employment was only 7,000 higher than last year,
According to the Idaho Department of Labor, new hires in April at more than 16,000 were back to pre-recession levels for only the second time since the downturn began, and more than a third of those hires were for new jobs.
April saw the fourth straight monthly decline in the state’s labor force.
But the persisting decline in the labor force, coupled with the recent drop in total employment, reinforced statistics pointing to an exodus of young workers to other states and an influx of retired workers and those finishing out their working careers. Should this population shift persist, it could aggravate Idaho’s structural shift toward service-sector jobs, which has accelerated since the end of the 2001 recession. That shift from 82 percent to more than 85 percent of all jobs in the past decade is economically significant because service-sector jobs on average pay $10,000 a year less than do production jobs.
Hiring decreases in manufacturing and professional and business services were offset by better-than-normal hiring by retailers, private educational institutions, hotels and restaurants.
Idaho’s April unemployment rate matched a downwardly revised March rate, falling steadily from 8.8 percent over the past 29 months. April’s rate was 1.2 percentage points below last year’s 7.3 percent and is the 139th month in a row—over 11 and a half years—that Idaho’s jobless rate has been below the nation’s.
And while the number of unemployed has dropped by 10,000 from last year, total employment was only 7,000 higher than a year earlier.