POST FALLS - Blame the latest rise in Kootenai County’s jobless rate to 9.7 percent in May on a double punch.
“It’s a combination of a slowing of the job market and a decline in private service jobs,” said Alivia Metts, regional labor economist with the Idaho Department of Labor. “The labor force declined month to month indicating people were discouraged and left the labor force.”
The number of jobs listed through the Department of Labor declined 10 percent from April to May.
The last time the local rate was in the 9 percent range was last December when it was 9.5 percent. After the rate dropped to 7.9 percent in January, it has increased each of the past four months.
“It’s still tough to find a job,” said Gloria Smith, who was searching for jobs at the Department of Labor on Friday. “I’ve been looking for a secretarial position for five months. It’s hard, but I’m not losing hope.”
Coeur d’Alene’s rate jumped from 9 percent to 10.2, while Post Falls dropped to 9.3 from 9.6.
The state’s rate rose a tenth of a percentage to 7.8 percent, breaking a string of nine straight monthly declines. Hiring slowed in much of the service sector while optimism about employment prospects pushed more job seekers into the labor market.
In Benewah County, the rate increased to 12.9 percent from 12.6
But even though the state’s rate inched upward, the number of Idaho workers with jobs jumped over 721,000 for the first time since mid-2008, and total unemployment remained under 61,000 for the second month in a row.
The increase in Idaho’s rate mirrored the tenth-of-a-point increase in the national rate to 8.2 percent. Idaho’s rate has been below the national rate for nearly 11 years.
Idaho’s unemployment fell from a post-recession high of 8.9 percent in July 2011 to 7.7 percent in April before finally rising a tenth in May to 7.8 percent. Almost 3,000 more people entered the labor force last month, pushing it to a record 782,000.
Idaho employers increased their payrolls 1 percent in May, but that was short of the five-year average April-May increase of 1.3 percent. The slip came in the service sector, which accounts for four of every five jobs. While hiring in trade and information exceeded the average, all other service sectors fell short by enough to offset slightly more hiring than normal in goods production including construction.
New hires, which include replacement workers as well as additional workers, fell slightly from April but remained the strongest May since 2008. The May report from the Conference Board, the Washington, D.C.-based business think tank, estimated fewer than three unemployed workers for every posted job in Idaho, the first time since 2008 that the ratio has been under three for two straight months.
A year ago total employment was under 702,000 and 67,500 workers were unemployed.
A dozen primarily rural counties posted May unemployment rates in double digits, up from nine in April.
Franklin and Camas counties were the only ones that posted lower jobless rates in May than in April.
Clearwater County recorded the highest rate at 15 percent. The lowest rate was 4.3 percent in Franklin County.
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