December was a record-setting month for employment in Idaho, a good sign that the economy is getting back on solid footing.
According to preliminary numbers from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, almost 3,800 Idahoans found jobs in December 2013. That's the largest single-month increase in 20 years.
Total state employment is now at a record 728,600, according to a news release from the Idaho Department of Labor. December's growth helped push the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate down four-tenths of a percentage point to 5.7 percent, the lowest level since October 2008. Idaho's unemployment rate has now dropped a full percentage point since October.
The news isn't all rosy, however. Just less than 64 percent of Idahoans 16 and older are in the labor force, the lowest rate in 32 years. The Department of Labor says that's a reflection of the "initial exodus of baby boomers from the workplace." The state's highest-ever labor participation rate was 70.9 percent, set in October and November 1998. Other details from Friday's Idaho Department of Labor news release:
- The number of workers without jobs in December fell to 44,000, more than 23,000 below the recession peak in September 2010.
- The decline in the number of unemployed Idahoans has come with a significant reduction in unemployment insurance benefits. In December, $14.1 million in state and federal benefits were paid to an average of 13,200 idled workers a week, down 38 percent from $21.4 million paid a year earlier to more than 21,000 workers a week. Federal extended benefits ended in December.
- For the year, total state and federal benefits of $192 million were paid to an average of 12,300 workers a week. That compared to benefits totaling $299 million paid to a weekly average of 21,200 during 2012.
- Ten of Idahos 44 counties posted increases in their unemployment rates from November to December, and six more were unchanged. All five metropolitan areas saw their rates decline.
- Oneida Countys jobless rate slipped to 2.9 percent for the lowest in the state, while only three counties Clearwater, Shoshone and Adams had double-digit percentage rates. Clearwaters was the highest at 11 percent, unchanged from November.
- Twenty-seven counties recorded rates below 6 percent, up from 25 counties in November.