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Some North Central Idaho residents returned to work in May

by Kathryn Tacke, Regional Economist Idaho Department of Labor

Unemployment rates in North Central Idaho fell from 11.3 percent in April to 9.1 percent in May as many people returned to work as the lockdown began ending.

The rate remained more than three times higher the 2.7 percent in March. In February, the region's rate hit a record low of 2.5 percent. About one in five people who were unemployed in April returned to work in May. The number of unemployed residents fell 20.6 percent from 5,713 in April to 4,537 in May. Despite that decline, about 3,100 more North Central residents were jobless in May than in March.

Clearwater County's seasonally adjusted jobless rate fell from 14.8 percent from April to 13.5 percent in May. Clearwater County had the fourth highest unemployment rate among Idaho's counties in May. The three counties with higher rates were: Shoshone County (15.7 percent); Blaine (14.5); and Adams (14.4). A year ago, in May 2019, the county's jobless rate was 7.2 percent.

The number of unemployed Clearwater County residents fell 8.6 percent from 429 in April to 392 in May. This May's number was nearly double the 206 a year ago.

Idaho County's unemployment rate dropped from 12.0 percent in April to 10.2 percent in May. It still was much higher than a year earlier, when it was 4.6 percent.

In Idaho County, the number of jobless residents fell 14.3 percent from 806 in April to 691 in May, but that was 128.8 percent higher than the 302 jobless residents in May 2019,

Latah County's jobless rate fell from 9.7 percent in April to 7.9 percent in May. A year ago, its rate was 2.8 percent. The City of Moscow's jobless rate fell from 10.3 percent in April to 8.4 percent in May, but was much higher than the 2.6 percent a year ago.

Latah County's unemployed residents in May numbered 1,542-down 18.1 percent from 1,882 in April. This May the number of unemployed residents was 176.8 percent higher than the 557 in May 2019.

Lewis County's jobless rate in May ranked ninth highest out of Idaho's 44 counties. It fell from 14.2 percent in April to 11.7 percent in May. Its rate a year earlier was less than half as high-5.1 percent. Of the five counties in North Central Idaho, Lewis County saw the largest increase in joblessness during the coronavirus crisis. About 13 percent of the county's resident workers filed unemployment claims between March 15 and June 13, while 8.4 percent of the region's resident work force did.

Lewis County's number of jobless residents dropped 18.1 percent from 243 in April to 199 in May. That was 134.1 percent higher than 85 in May 2019.

The percentage of Nez Perce County's resident labor force who were unemployed dropped from a near-record high 11.8 percent in April (just one-tenth of a percentage point lower than the record high set in April 1980) to 8.9 percent in May. A year earlier, it was 2.8 percent. About one-third of its job losses during the pandemic came from health care and social assistance. Another 21 percent came from the leisure and hospitality sector.

While normally the City of Lewiston's unemployment rate is lower than the county's rate, during the last two months, its rate has been higher than the county's. The City of Lewiston's jobless rate fell from 12.0 percent in April to 9.0 percent in May. A year ago, it was 2.7 percent. During the pandemic, the city's rate rose above the county's, because the city has a higher percentage of the retail, health care, and hospitality jobs hit hardest by the pandemic.

In Nez Perce County, the number of unemployed residents fell 27.2 percent from 2,353 in April to 1,713 in May. Despite the fall, unemployed residents this May was nearly three times higher (193.3 percent) than a year ago, 584.

The table below shows seasonally adjusted unemployment rates in April and May and the record highest and lowest unemployment rates. Notice how close the April rates were to the highest rates ever and how most of the region was enjoying the lowest unemployment rates ever in the months before the coronavirus crisis.

With most businesses having reopened since mid-May, unemployment rates are likely to fall considerably in June. In the week ending June 13, 76 North Central Idaho workers filed new unemployment claims. That was the lowest number filed since the coronavirus economic crisis began in mid-March, and far below the 1,020 filed in the record week ending March 28.


Idaho's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell to 8.9 percent in May and non-farm payrolls regained 24,300 jobs as the state's economy began a rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic.

May's rate dropped from a revised record high of 11.8 percent in April, falling below former peak rates of 10.2 percent in December 1982 and 9.6 percent in June 2009 during the Great Recession.

Total employment increased 23,090 to 804,643, up 3 percent from April, while the number of unemployed Idahoans dropped by 24.2 percent, down 25,276 to 79,015.

Idaho's seasonally adjusted labor force decreased by 2,186 to 883,658 for a total decline of almost 11,000 - or 1.2 percent - since the Covid-19 emergency declaration in March.

May's labor force participation rate - the percentage of people 16 years and older with jobs or looking for work - dropped from 63.5 percent in April to 63.2 percent for May - the lowest it has been for Idaho since May 1976.

Idaho nonfarm payrolls gained 24,300 jobs, up 3.5 percent to 713,000 for May. April's 688,700 total nonfarm jobs was a level last seen in Idaho in 2016, and May's recovery brought Idaho nonfarm jobs back to the 2017 level.

All but three industry sectors experienced some recovery in May, with the most significant gains concentrated in sectors with over-the-month increases of 5 percent or more - leisure and hospitality (+27.3 percent), education and health services (+9.8 percent) and other services (+7.4 percent). Natural resources, government, and professional and business services experienced declines.

Year-over-year, the total number of Idahoans with jobs dropped 5.7 percent (-48,607) while the number of unemployed increased by 53,143 (+205.4 percent).

Idaho's labor force held on to an over-the-year gain of 4,536 people, up slightly (0.5 percent) from May 2019.

Seasonally adjusted nonfarm jobs were down 5.9 percent representing an over-the-year loss of 44,900 jobs.

Only two sectors - construction and financial activities - continued to see employment levels higher than May 2019, while the four largest over the year industry declines were in leisure and hospitality (-26.1 percent), other services (-18.4 percent), information (-11.1 percent), and education and health services (-6.8 percent).

All but one of Idaho's five Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) saw nonfarm job gains from April to May 2020 - Idaho Falls (4.3 percent), Pocatello (4.1 percent), Boise (4.0 percent) and Coeur d'Alene (3.4 percent). Lewiston remained at the same level as April (0.0 percent).

Year over year, Idaho Falls was the only MSA in Idaho to see an increase at 1.4 percent. Lewiston (-13.8 percent), Pocatello (-11.3 percent), Coeur d'Alene (-9.1 percent) and Boise (-4.8 percent) all were below their May 2019 levels.

Annually, unemployment insurance benefit payments were up 837 percent from a weekly average of $1,295,000 a year ago to $12,134,000 weekly for May 2020. The number of claimants increased 1,100 percent to 45,037 from a weekly average of 3,828 a year ago. These increases are a direct result of the shutdowns caused by COVID-19.

Nationally, unemployment fell to 13.3 percent in May. The number of unemployed persons fell by 2.1 million to 21 million in May.

One year earlier, the national unemployment rate was 3.6 percent, while the number of unemployed reached 5.9 million. [https://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.nr0.htm]

Labor force data for Idaho's counties and cities can be found at https://lmi.idaho.gov/laus.

For details on Idaho's labor market, visit lmi.Idaho.gov.

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