Idaho employers hired at or above their normal pace for March, pushing total employment to an unprecedented 736,000, the Department of Labor reported. The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate slipped another tenth of a point last month to a five-and-a-half-year low of 5.2 percent.
In Blaine County, the March rate was calculated at 5.3 percent, with 646 unemployed people in a workforce of 12,129. That’s up slightly from 4.8 percent in February but down from 6.3 percent in March 2013.
March was the seventh straight month total employment in Idaho has set a record. More than 11,000 more people were at work last month than in March 2013.
With the latest drop in the jobless rate—the eighth straight monthly decline—unemployment has fallen one and a third percentage points in a year, while the number of workers off the job dropped from 50,500 in March 2013 to 40,600 last month.
Workers receiving regular state unemployment benefits dropped on average below 13,000 a week last month, 20 percent lower than March 2013 to remain at the lowest levels since the expansion of the 1990s, the Department of Labor reported. Jobless benefit payments totaled $14.4 million for the month, 13.4 percent below a year earlier. Federally financed extended benefits ended at the close of 2013.
Idaho’s unemployment rate has been below the national rate for more than 12 years. The national rate was 6.7 percent in March, unchanged from February.
Construction showed the strongest job growth between February and March, continuing to recover from the severe contraction following the bursting of the housing bubble. Manufacturers expanded slightly more than normal for March, and the combination resulted in double the normal job expansion in goods producing sectors of the economy, where wages average about $10,000 a year more than the service sector.
Twenty percent of the new jobs generated in March were in goods production, a dramatic increase from the 8 percent in February’s jobs report.
Business services, retail, private education services, leisure services, hotels and restaurants all showed hiring strength during March. Weak spots were in financial services, truck transportation and professional services. Health care, which grew steadily during the recession in response to the state’s aging population, continued to expand in March but at a slower rate than typical over the previous five years.