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Jobless rate sets record

by JENNIFER PASSARO
Staff Writer | May 23, 2020 1:03 AM

State at 11.5%, Kootenai County at 16.8%

The April unemployment rate in Idaho hit an all-time high, jumping 9 percentage points from a record low 2.5 percent in March to the highest ever recorded, 11.5 percent.

According to the Idaho Department of Labor, rates exceeded a record-setting 10.2 percent in December 1982 and the Great Recession peak rate of 9.6 percent in June 2009.

In Kootenai County, the unemployment rate is even higher at 16.8 percent. The county has the sixth-highest rate in the state, behind Blaine at 21.7 percent, Valley at 20.4 percent, Shoshone at 19.8 percent, Adams at 18.4 percent, and Bonner at 16.9 percent unemployment.

Seasonally adjusted, 13,617 people are unemployed in Kootenai County. In January, just 2,594 people were unemployed.

Principal research analyst for the Idaho Department of Labor, Karen Jarboe Singletary, said Friday that it’s difficult to predict how long it will take to recover from these unemployment numbers.

“This is unique in that there is this one really big thing that happened and we know when it happened and that it affected the economy,” Singletary said.

In the 1982 recession and the Great Recession, the peak rate of unemployment happened toward the end of the recession period, according to the National Bureau of Economic Recovery.

“Unemployment tends to be a lagging indicator,” Singletary said. “We are seeing this huge spike up front. We can’t really say what will happen going forward.”

Idaho’s seasonally adjusted labor force stayed somewhat steady, decreasing slightly by 2,841 to 891,791, while Kootenai County’s seasonally adjusted labor force increased slightly by 267 from March to April. The seasonally adjusted civilian labor force in Kootenai County is 81,010.

As of Friday, 67,393 people were employed in the county.

April’s labor force participation rate — the percentage of people 16 years and older with jobs or looking for work — dropped from 64.2 percent to 63.9 percent, the largest over-the-month participation rate decline on record, and the lowest participation rate for Idaho since mid-2017.

Four industry sectors saw over-the-month decreases of 10 percent or more in April — leisure and hospitality (-42.3 percent), other services (-24.5 percent), information (-18.9 percent) and education and health services (-12.8 percent).

These four sectors include many establishments most affected by COVID-19 safety measures including hotels and restaurants, ski resorts and golf courses, repair shops, salons, movie theaters, schools and non-emergency health care services.

Natural resources was the only industry sector to show any payroll gains with an increase of 100 jobs.

In April 2019 in the Coeur d’Alene Metropolitan Statistical Area, 7,820 workers were employed in food preparation and serving related occupations, earning a mean hourly wage of $11.45. This was the second-largest employment sector in the MSA.

Year over year, the total number of Idahoans with jobs dropped 7.3 percent (-62,105) while the number of unemployed increased by 77,134 (+299 percent).

Regular unemployment insurance benefit payments were up 627.8 percent from a weekly average of $1,676,419 one year ago to a weekly average payout of $12,201,799 in April 2020. The number of claimants increased by 752.7 percent to a weekly average of 42,266 from 4,957 one year ago.

Nationally, unemployment reached 14.7 percent in April. The number of unemployed persons rose by 15.9 million to 23.1 million in April.

One year earlier, the national unemployment rate was 3.6 percent, while the number of unemployed reached 5.9 million.