A Declining Labor Force Pushes Idaho's Jobless Rate Below 4 Percent

Dec 19, 2014

Idaho’s unemployment rate dropped in November to its lowest rate in nearly seven years, in part because the labor force is shrinking.

Credit Gene Han / Flickr

Idaho Department of Labor spokesman Bob Fick says November's 3.9 percent jobless rate was down two-tenths of a point from October.

“There’s usually a decline in jobs from October to November and that decline was less than in the past and there continue to be people who left the labor force,” says Fick. “So the combination of steady jobs and lower labor force was responsible for driving down the unemployment rate under four percent.”

Since May, More than 6,600 workers have left the labor force. Fick says some of those are discouraged workers, but many are retiring baby boomers reaching the end of their working life. And the labor participation rate, that’s the number of people over 16 who are working or looking for work, has fallen as well.

New hires were up by more than 15,000 during November. “Most of those hires filled existing jobs,” says Fick. “There were very few new jobs created during the month. Those new hires were primarily to replace people who retired or left the job for some other reason.”

Fick says federal and state jobs dropped in November, while public education added more jobs.

The Idaho Labor Department reports 30,100 people were unemployed last month in Idaho, compared to 44,300 in November of 2013.

While Idaho's overall jobless rate declined, the unemployment increased three-tenths of a point in Ada County, to 3.2 percent. Canyon County's rate was also up, seven-tenths, to 4.7 percent.

The last time Idaho’s unemployment rate fell below 4 percent was in March 2008.

Fick cautions November's unemployment estimate is preliminary and it, along with the rest of 2014's numbers, will be revised in March by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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