July 19, 1997 in Nation/World

In Idaho, Ends Often Don’t Meet Seasonal Jobs, Low Wages Have Workers Moonlighting

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Mike Weland may never have thought of himself as a moonlighter.

But two years ago, with a $300 monthly house payment, no medical insurance and two teenagers to support, the 38-year-old radio station director knew his $14,000-a-year income just wouldn’t cut it.

So he added on 20 extra hours with the local newspaper, raking in the same amount as his job at the AM country station in Bonners Ferry where he lives.

Now he juggles time between jobs, working up to 60 hours during a typical week. Neither job offers medical benefits.

“It’s the only way to make ends meet,” he said.

Weland is not alone.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, almost 10 percent of Idaho’s workers hold more than one job. Idaho ranks seventh in the nation in the number of people with two jobs.

High unemployment rates and a surplus of workers keep wages low in Idaho. Many workers take more than one job just to get by, said Kathryn Tacke, labor analyst for the Idaho Department of Labor.

That may be magnified in the Panhandle, where dependence on seasonal industries like tourism, construction and logging can change the labor market.

“What some people will find is that they may work very hard at two or three jobs for 50 to 60 hours a week during the summer and then still find themselves unemployed in the winter,” Tacke said.

Annual take-home wages for the Panhandle typically have been lower than state and national averages because of the high number of part-time workers, and the type of industry in the region, she said.

The higher unemployment rate in the region also gives employers the ability to choose the number of workers and how many hours, she said.

The Panhandle’s June unemployment rate was 3-1/2 times higher than the state’s unemployment rate.

That, combined with the growing economy, is good for temporary services like Humanix Personnel Services in Coeur d’Alene.

“It’s a great economy,” branch manager Bobbie Albright said. “This summer we’ve really seen an increase in the number of recruitments.”

Her office, which focuses on placement in manufacturing, small business, secretarial and accounting jobs, has seen a greater increase in the number of applicants this summer. Last year at this time, she may have had only two or three people slotted for interview times. Now she’s up to seven or 10 people for those same spots.

However, those seeking a second job make up only about 10 percent of her clients.

“Most people are looking for a full-time position,” she said. “Those people are looking to be the primary bread-winner.”

The dough, however, may be small potatoes. Especially in Idaho.

, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: Panhandle payoff Average wages in 1996 for North Idaho were $20,860, compared to the statewide average of $23,360 and the national average of $28,700.

This sidebar appeared with the story: Panhandle payoff Average wages in 1996 for North Idaho were $20,860, compared to the statewide average of $23,360 and the national average of $28,700.


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