Idaho’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped another tenth of a percentage point in February to 5.3 percent, the lowest rate in more than five years, the Department of Labor reported this week.
In Blaine County, an estimated 585 people out of a civilian labor force of 12,143, or 4.8 percent, were unemployed in February, the department reported. That’s down from 5.1 percent in January and 6.3 percent in February 2013.
The decline, following a two-tenths of a point drop in January, came as the labor force participation rate—the percentage of the population 16 and older working or actively looking for work—fell a tenth of a percentage point to 63.7 percent. Idaho’s participation rate dropped just below 64 percent last October—the first time in over 30 years—and has been gradually sliding since, likely a reflection of the influx of retirees.
Nationally, the unemployment rate ticked up a notch in February to 6.7 percent. Idaho’s unemployment rate, which has dropped a full percentage point and a third in the last year, has been below the national rate for more than 12 years.
Following January’s traditional post-holiday contraction, businesses in most sectors resumed adding jobs at a relatively strong clip, boosting payrolls by 6,500 in February, the department reported. Total nonfarm jobs were 2 percent higher than the previous February, essentially maintaining growth rates that marked 2013 when only six other states had stronger job growth, according to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates.
Total employment set its sixth straight monthly record at 735,500, up 1,100 from January, and the number of workers without jobs dropped below 41,000 for the first time since August 2008. A year ago, Idaho employment stood at 723,600, with more than 51,000 workers off the job.
The number of workers receiving weekly unemployment benefits also remained at its lowest levels since the long expansion of the 1990s. An average of 14,700 workers received benefits each week in February, down 21 percent from a year earlier, while the payout of $16.6 million was 15 percent lower.
All but Idaho’s two smallest counties—Camas and Clark—posted unemployment rates for February that were below year-earlier levels.