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More North Central Idaho residents returned to work in June

by Kathryn Tacke, Regional Economist, Idaho Department of Labor

North Central Idaho's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell from 9.0 percent in May to 5.6 percent in June as about 2,800 people returned to their jobs as the reopening continued.

June's improvement followed May's improvement, which pushed the unemployment rate down from its peak of 11.3 percent in April.

The coronavirus economic crisis did less damage to North Central Idaho than the nation. The region's June unemployment rate of 5.6 percent was the same as Idaho's June rate, and nearly half the nation's 11.1 percent. The region's rate peaked at a lower level (11.3 percent) in April than the state (11.8 percent) and U.S. (14.7 percent).

Despite the rebound in May and June, many North Central Idaho residents remained out of work. About 1,460 people who were employed in mid-March were jobless in mid-June. June's unemployment rate of 5.6 percent was more than double March's rate of 2.7 percent.

The unemployment rate doesn't reflect all the economic problems some North Central Idaho residents continue to face. For example, many people are working fewer hours than they did before the coronavirus crisis, reducing their take-home pay significantly. Many young people who normally would have entered the labor market for the first time this summer have been prevented by a reduction in summer jobs and more competition for jobs from adults. Tourism- related industries appear to have greatly reduced hiring for summer jobs to about 220 jobs, compared to the 580 jobs they normally add. Some people who were self-employed before the coronavirus have been unable to reopen their businesses. Other businesses have reopened but are receiving considerably less revenue, reducing the incomes of the owners and making their long-term existence less certain.

Despite its unemployment rate declining 4.3 percentage points between May and June, Clearwater County had the second highest unemployment rate among Idaho's 44 counties in June. Its 9.3 percent was only lower than Shoshone County's 10.5 percent. About 130 people returned to work in June. But another 130 people who had been employed before the pandemic continued to be jobless.

Idaho County's unemployment rate jumped from a record low of 3.4 percent in February to 12.0 percent, its highest rate since the severe recession in the early 1980s, in April. As the shutdowns phased out, its unemployment fell to 10.4 percent in May and then to 7.1 percent in June. The rebound remained incomplete; 240 more people were out of work in June than in March. Since mid-June, new unemployment claims in Idaho County have fallen to their normal levels before the coronavirus. That suggests the county's unemployment rate is likely to drop between June and July.

After reaching a record low of 2.1 percent in February, Latah County's unemployment surged to 9.7 percent in April. As the shutdowns began to end, the unemployment rate fell to 7.8 percent in May and then to 4.8 percent in June. Some of Latah County's relative low joblessness is illusory. About 540 fewer people participated in the labor force in June than three months earlier, according to seasonally adjusted data. If so, many folks hadn't moved out of the county or given up on participating in the labor force, the county's unemployment rate in June would have been about 2.6 percent higher.

Moscow-where restaurants, tourism, and retail are concentrated-has suffered proportionately greater job loss than the rest of the county. In June, its jobless rate was 5.2 percent, while the rest of the county's rate was 4.2 percent.

In recent weeks, job losses at the University of Idaho sharply increased unemployment claims, which suggests that the July rates of Moscow and the county may be higher.

Lewis County's 7.2 percent jobless rate in June was nearly half of its coronavirus peak of 14.2 percent two months earlier, but far higher than the 4.5 percent before the crisis began. Altogether, about 15 percent of Lewis County workers filed unemployment claims between March 15 and July 11.

Before the pandemic, Nez Perce County's jobless rate was a record low of 2.2 percent. Then by April the pandemic shutdowns pushed the rate to 11.8 percent, just shy of its record-high 11.9 percent reached in April 1980. The rollout of reopening caused its rate to fall to 8.9 percent in May and then to 5.3 percent in June. About 520 more people were unemployed in June than in March. In addition, about 1,170 fewer people were in the labor force. Some of those who left the labor force were people who closed their businesses. A few others decided to retire early or decided to become full-time students or homemakers because they believed they wouldn't be able to find desirable jobs. In addition, some of the labor force reduction occurred because many teens gave up looking for work or didn't start looking for work because they believed there were no job opportunities for them. In addition, a few people who had been participating in the labor force in March left the area. Many of them were Lewis-Clark State College students, who returned to their parents' homes because of the pandemic.

Asotin County's jobless rate, which shot up from 3.2 percent in April to 9.0 percent in March. As parts of its economy reopened, its rate fell to 6.5 percent in June. Washington's stricter rules about reopening are preventing its rate to fall as much as Idaho counties. About 340 more people were unemployed in June than in mid-March before the crisis.


Idaho's nonfarm payrolls regained 24,800 jobs and the state's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell to 5.6 percent as the state's economy continued to reopen.

June's unemployment rate dropped 3.4 percentage points from a revised rate of 9 percent in May and down from April's historic high of 11.8 percent. Previous peak unemployment rates include 10.2 percent for December of 1982 and 9.6 percent for June of 2016 - the Great Recession peak.

The number of unemployed Idahoans fell by 28,961 to 50,267 as total employment recovered by 38,885 to 841,898, up 4.8 percent from May.

Idaho's seasonally adjusted labor force increased by 9,924 to 892,165, after decreasing by nearly 12,400 over the previous two months. June's gains put the labor force about 2,500 below its pre-pandemic level in March.

June's labor force participation rate - the percentage of people 16 years and older with jobs or looking for work - increased to 63.7 percent, from a revised 63.1 percent in May.

Idaho nonfarm payrolls increased by 24,800 jobs, up 3.5 percent to 736,300 for June, with the last two months of job gains returning Idaho nonfarm jobs to 2018 levels.

All but three industry sectors experienced some recovery in June, with the most significant gains concentrated in sectors with over-the-month increases of 11 percent or more - leisure and hospitality (+23.8 percent) and other services (+11.1 percent). Natural resources, construction and manufacturing experienced small declines.

Year over year, the total number of Idahoans with jobs dropped 1.6 percent (-13,722) while the number of unemployed increased by 24,380 (+94.2 percent). Idaho's labor force continued to show over-the-year gains, up 10,658 people (+1.2 percent) from June 2019.

Seasonally adjusted nonfarm jobs were down 3 percent representing an over-the-year loss of 22,900 jobs.

The four largest industry declines were in leisure and hospitality (-12.6 percent), other services (-10.7 percent), information (-9 percent) and government (-5.5 percent).

All of Idaho's five Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) saw nonfarm job gains from May to June 2020. Job increases in two MSAs exceeded the statewide average - Pocatello (+5.8 percent) and Boise (+4.1 percent), with the remaining MSAs reporting job gains between two and three percent.

Year over year, four Idaho MSAs experienced job declines. Lewiston experienced the largest over-the-year job loss at 10.6 percent, while the Idaho Falls MSA saw a modest gain of 3.3 percent.

Annually, unemployment insurance benefit payments were up 843 percent from a weekly average of $1,101,000 one year ago to a weekly average of $10,396,000 for June 2020. The number of claimants increased 1,083 percent to 42,102 from a weekly average of 3,558 one year ago.

Nationally, unemployment declined to 11.1 percent, with the number of unemployed dropping by 3.2 million to 17.8 million. One year earlier, the national unemployment was 3.7 percent and the number of unemployed was 6 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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