Idahos seasonally adjusted unemployment rate held steady in March at 6.2 percent, the result of a continuing decline in the states labor force and caution on the part of employers, the Idaho Department of Labor announced Friday.
One year ago in March, the statewide unemployment rate was 7.4 percent.
Canyon Countys 6.8 percent unemployment rate for March dropped from 9 percent in March 2012. In Ada County, the rate was 5.5 percent, down from 6.6 the previous year. Both counties March unemployment rates were a little lower than in February, when Ada had 5.6 percent unemployment and Canyons rate was 7.2 percent.
Statewide, another 1,400 people left the labor force in March, the largest one-month exodus since the heart of the recession three years ago and the third straight monthly decline. Over 2,600 people have dropped out of the states labor force since December, leaving it at just over 772,000 and erasing any gains made since January 2012 when the economy was struggling to begin its recovery.
Ada Countys total civilian labor force grew from 203,634 in March 2012 to 205,035 this March. Canyons labor force fell from 87,262 in March 2012 to 86,794 a year later.
Across Idaho, employers hired 13,000 workers in March for both new and replacement jobs -- about 500 fewer than they hired in March 2012 and well below prerecession hiring levels. While Marchs job creation was about twice the average during the past five years, it was below that of normal economic times, according to a Department of Labor news release.
As a result, total employment fell for the second month in a row, dropping by more than 600 to 724,500.
Government jobs continued contracting, albeit modestly, during March. Government has been shedding jobs in the recessions aftermath as tax revenues tighten. Modest job growth beyond normal in the much-smaller manufacturing sector partially offset the reluctance of private sector employers to hire on the service side of the economy, which has been producing three of every four new jobs since the recovery began.
The activity in goods production was a welcome sign for Idaho since those jobs average $10,000 a year more in pay than service sector jobs, the Department of Labor reports.
Overall, the first third of 2013 was stronger than its counterpart in 2012. About 8,000 more people were working in March than in March 2012, and the number of unemployed -- 47,500 was 9,500 lower than the previous year.
Nationally, unemployment dropped another tenth of a point in March to 7.6 percent while Idahos rate, unchanged from February, remained below the national rate for the 138th month 11½ years. Last March, Idahos unemployment rate was 7.4 percent after peaking at 8.8 percent in late 2010.
Idaho unemployment benefits have been falling with the jobless rate. Regular unemployment insurance benefits totaling $15.8 million were paid to an average of 16,000 idled workers in March, down 21 percent from March 2012s $19.9 million paid to more than 20,000 people. Another 5,500 workers a week received a total of nearly $5.4 million during the month in federal extended benefits, about half the number and payout of a year earlier. The extended benefit program formally ends in December, and federal budget cutting has curtailed those benefits this spring.
The decline in Idahos labor force underscores analyst concerns about the states ability to sustain a strong recovery, the Department of Labor reports. While Idahos economy has been generating jobs faster than the national economy, its labor force remains at the level of 2011, when job creation was minimal.
Only three of the states 44 counties posted double-digit unemployment rates in March -- Shoshone, Benewah and Clearwater down from four counties in February and seven a year earlier. Fifteen counties had slightly higher rates than in February while 29 had lower rates.
Only Custer County, hit by a layoff at the molybdenum mine, had a higher rate -- 7.1 percent -- than in March 2012.
Clearwater County had the states highest unemployment rate at 12.5 percent, seven-tenths higher than February due mostly to spring conditions keeping loggers out of the woods. Camas County had the lowest rate at 3.7 percent. Twenty-four counties had rates under 6 percent.