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Eye On Boise

Tue., Feb. 17, 2009, 7:27 a.m.

‘Recession hit Idaho harder and faster’

State Labor Director Roger Madsen told lawmakers this morning, “The recession hit Idaho harder and faster” than other states. “After posting the lowest unemployment rate in the nation in 2007 … no state has seen as large a percentage increase in its unemployment rate as Idaho.” There are now 30,000 more Idaho workers out of a job than a year ago, Madsen told the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee, for a total of about 50,000, a record. All 44 Idaho counties have higher unemployment than a year ago, and phone calls to state unemployment offices have doubled since Labor Day. Since the end of 2007, 37 of Idaho’s 44 counties have seen their unemployment rates double.

The result has been a boom in unemployment benefit payouts. Those payouts, while no substitute for actual jobs, have had “a positive economic effect, certainly upon the families involved,” Madsen told lawmakers. Idaho’s unemployment benefit payouts have soared to the point that borrowing from federal funds will be necessary, he said. Meanwhile, budget cuts have eliminated 15 percent of the Labor Department’s work force. “We are attempting to cope with our biggest workload in history,” Madsen told JFAC.

Asked by lawmakers about January unemployment rates, Madsen said figures aren’t expected to come out until Feb. 27 because of federal benchmarking this month. “We expect ‘em to go above 7 percent soon,” he said. “The layoffs have continued.”

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Eye On Boise

Short takes and breaking news from the Idaho Legislature and the state capital.