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Panhandle Unemployment Surges

Kootenai County unemployment shot upward in July because of weakness in the construction and wood products industries.

The jump to 8.2 percent in July from 6.4 percent in June may appear mysterious during the peak of tourism and construction season, said Kathryn Tacke, labor analyst for the Idaho Department of Employment.

But the number is seasonally adjusted, so the increase in tourism and construction employment that usually lowers the rate in the summer is factored out, she said.

“We’re looking at far less construction employment than we had at this time last year,” she said. “That slowdown has extended to other construction-related areas …”

The loss of more than 100 jobs at Keystone Lighting in Hayden Lake and 11 jobs at Empire Airlines also nudged the rate up in July, she said.

For the five-county Panhandle region, unemployment climbed to 8.5 percent from 6.9 percent in June. Idaho’s statewide unemployment rate was much lower, 5.3 percent.

Weakness in the lumber markets continued to hurt local sawmills. In lumber-dependent Bonner County, where Idaho Woodworks in Sandpoint closed, the unemployment rate rose to 9.6 percent from 7.6 percent.

Another negative influence on the job market was rainy June weather, which delayed some agricultural work such as hay baling, Tacke said.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Graphic: North Idaho unemployment