Idaho is closing more than half of its labor offices, in both rural and urban areas.
Instead of meeting with people at a permanent office location, staff in the affected areas will instead travel between towns and neighborhoods.
The goal is not to cut costs, Idaho Department of Labor Director Jani Revier said in an interview this week. All employees will be offered jobs at their current salary, and no jobs are being eliminated, she said.
The goal, she said, is to take the money the state now spends on rent and utilities, and use it instead for employee travel and office hours, enabling Labor staff to meet people closer to where they live and work.
While the department calls the change positive — more outreach in rural areas, for example — many of the details haven’t been worked out. Revier couldn’t say where employees will hold their office hours, or how workers will schedule meetings with them.
“We have the outline for the plan; what we’re missing are the details of how it’s going to be (implemented),” she said.
The reason for announcing the plan now is because the state needed to notify the offices’ landlords, she said.
“It’s a timing problem,” Revier said. “... We can’t let people know changes are coming and at the same time have all the details.”
The Idaho Labor Department serves workers and employers. It helps people find jobs, get job training, offers computer and internet access, offers services to veterans and provides career guidance. The department also helps employers recruit workers, including assistance with hiring incentives and tax credits.
An average of two people work in each of the soon-to-be-shuttered offices, and that’s how many will be doing the new remote jobs, Revier said.
“We are adding some positions, in our unemployment (services),” she said. Unemployment insurance “navigators” will be added to six of the remaining offices around the state, she said.
“Right now, if someone walks into one of our offices with a question, they have to call our Boise office,” she said. The new employees will be able to answer unemployment-related questions in person. The new employees in Caldwell and Twin Falls will speak English and Spanish, and the department hopes to hire bilingual employees for two other locations as well.
The office closures may affect some communities and people more than others, such as workers who rely on a Labor office’s computers to apply for jobs. Also, there won’t be a single office to visit on any given day, since employees will have office hours in various places — such as libraries, other government offices and nonprofits.
There are 24 offices now across Idaho. The department plans to close 13 of them, in Meridian, Emmett, Mountain Home, McCall, Payette, Bonners Ferry, St. Maries, Kellogg, Grangeville, Hailey, Blackfoot, Soda Springs and Rexburg.
Eleven offices will remain open: Boise, Caldwell, Twin Falls, Post Falls, Lewiston, Pocatello, Idaho Falls, Burley, Salmon, Orofino and Sandpoint.