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Fewer Idaho residents file unemployment claims

by Keith Ridler
| August 14, 2020 10:03 AM

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — The number of Idaho residents applying for unemployment dropped by 10 percent last week, officials said Thursday, but layoffs are continuing to run high due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Idaho Department of Labor said that applications for jobless benefits declined to 3,250.

The agency also said that the overall number of people collecting unemployment dropped 4 percent to 20,263. That’s the 14th week of consecutive declines since the pandemic entered Idaho in March and Republican Gov. Brad Little issued a stay-at-home order as infections surged.

That order ended April 30, and the state at two-week intervals has been moving through Little’s reopening plan. Idaho has stalled in the fourth and final stage of the plan as infections have begun climbing.

As of Wednesday, there were more than 26,000 virus infections and 246 deaths in the state, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

The seven-day rolling average of the positivity rate in Idaho dropped to 16.51 percent through Wednesday from 17.83 percent on July 29, according to The COVID Tracking Project. However, in that category, Idaho has the sixth-worst rate in the country.

The number of coronavirus infections is thought to be far higher because many people have not been tested. Studies suggest people can be infected with the virus without feeling sick.

Little, who wears a face-covering in public and recommends others to do so as well, hasn’t imposed a statewide mask mandate though community spread of the virus has been detected in 41 of Idaho’s 44 counties.

Eight counties have approved their own mask mandates, according to the Idaho Office of Emergency Management. They are Ada, Blaine, Bonneville, Fremont, Jefferson, Kootenai, Teton and Valley counties. Ten cities, including Boise, also have mask mandates.

In the latest unemployment numbers, workers between the ages of 25 and 34 filed 27 percent of the new claims last week. Workers under 25 filed 18 percent of the claims. Workers in the 35-44 age group filed 20 percent of the claims, and those age 45 to 54 filed 16 percent. The Labor Department said the claims filed were evenly split between women and men.

Total benefit payments attributed to workers who lost their jobs due to the virus stand at $767 million. The Labor Department said that the state’s unemployment insurance paid out about $177 million, with the rest covered by federal pandemic relief programs.