Idaho’s unemployment rate ticked down two-tenths of a percent in September, slipping below the national rate for the first time in nearly a year. The state’s seasonally adjusted rate is at 9.0 percent, nationally it’s at 9.1 percent.
Idaho Department of Labor spokesman Bob Fick says many sectors are performing better, or about the same, as they were during Idaho’s economic expansion from 2003-2007. “That suggests that we really have hit the bottom and may finally be starting to, the economy may be starting to claw its way out of the recession into recovery,” says Fick.
Idaho employers hired 17,000 people last month. Most of those hires were to replace retirees or former employees. The number of new jobs created in September was more like 1,500. There are still roughly 68,000 Idahoans out of work.
“And then there are thousands of people who are working jobs that are part time jobs because they can’t find anything more,” Fick says. “And then there are thousands of people on top of that — who have jobs that they don’t believe are up to their qualifications, they’re working below their potential and they’re looking for better jobs, jobs that fit their skills. So when you talk about underemployment and frustrated workers, there’s no question that there are tens of thousands on top of those 68,000 who are unemployed.”
NPR reports unemployment rates fell in half of U.S. states last month. The Labor Department said Friday that unemployment rates dropped in 25 states, rose in 14 and stayed the same in 11. That’s an improvement from August, when unemployment rose in 26 states.
The Idaho Department of Labor says nearly 24,000 unemployed workers collected $22.9 million in jobless benefits last month. More than 11,800 Idaho workers have exhausted all benefits without finding jobs.
Still, Fick says the data show Idaho’s economy is picking up. “There is always churn in the economy but that shows the churn is starting to increase, it shows the labor market is starting to loosen, even just slightly.”