North Idaho’s economy grew rapidly during the first seven months of the year, adding more than 7,000 jobs in a wide array of occupations.
The growth was reflected in July’s low unemployment rates. Kootenai County posted a 6.5 percent jobless rate last month, compared with 7.1 percent a year ago.
In the five counties that make up the Idaho Panhandle, the July unemployment rate was 6.8 percent, down from 8.3 percent last year.
“Ever since January, we’ve been having job growth at an amazing clip,” said Kathryn Tacke, regional economist for Idaho Commerce & Labor in Coeur d’Alene. “Every major industrial sector has added jobs, and the job growth has spilled over into every county.”
The manufacturing and construction sectors played a particularly strong role in the region’s employment growth, Tacke said. North Idaho’s manufacturing sector is adding jobs after a two-year downturn. On the construction side, growth has come from new subdivisions and several large commercial construction projects, including a Post Falls factory for Buck Knives and a warehouse for Sysco Foods.
In addition, North Idaho’s booming real estate market has triggered hiring in a variety of related industries, Tacke said. Employment is up at lending agencies, title insurance companies, home improvement stores, and appliance and carpet dealers. Retail stores are hiring as North Idaho’s population grows.
Rural areas of the Panhandle shared in the job creation, Tacke said. Timber-dependent Benewah County benefited from higher lumber and plywood prices, which stabilized mill and logging employment. Shoshone County experienced an increase in retail and service jobs associated with people who’ve recently purchased vacation homes or rentals in the county, Tacke said.