September 4, 2005 in Idaho

State jobless rate hits record low

Compiled from staff and wire reports The Spokesman-Review
 

Boise Idaho’s surging tourist industry, still-booming construction and new call centers helped push the state to record-low unemployment levels in August.

The jobless rate dipped to 3.8 percent, more than a full percentage point below the national average of 4.9 percent and eclipsing the previous state record of 3.9 percent set in June 2004. At the time, 3.9 percent was a 28-year record.

Some 708,300 of the state’s 1.4 million residents were working last month, as the labor market added 2,100 people to payrolls.

Record employment levels are a sign that Idaho’s economy continues to be robust following a first quarter in which the job-growth rate was sixth-highest in the nation, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Employers in towns such as Ketchum and McCall hired more workers, in part to accommodate more tourists who boosted the state’s tourist tax 7.3 percent to a record $5.7 million in fiscal year 2005, and as construction companies continued to add more jobs to the 3,000 created in that industry in the first three months of the year.

“Everybody in the state is reporting record construction numbers,” said Janell Hyer, the Idaho state labor economist.

The 4.9 percent U.S. unemployment rate reported for August was down a notch from July’s 5 percent rate and was the lowest since August 2001. The number of unemployed persons, 7.4 million, was down from 8.0 million in February, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Comparing August’s figures to historical data is difficult because the federal government changed the way it calculates jobless rates last year.

Still, state officials say the numbers released by the Idaho Department of Commerce and Labor clearly show that Idaho has recovered from a post-Sept. 11., 2001, slump that three years ago caused lawmakers to raise taxes a full percentage point because of declining state revenue. That tax has now been rescinded.

Services, offices announce holiday closures

The following offices and services will be affected by the Labor Day holiday.

•All Kootenai County city and rural garbage pickup will be one day late for the week.

•City, county, state and federal offices will be closed.

•Post offices will be closed.

•State liquor stores will be closed.

•Most banks will be closed.

Two killed when semitruck hits parked pickup

Two people died Saturday morning after a semitruck rear-ended an illegally parked pickup on Interstate 90.

The driver of the semitruck was taken to Adams County Rural Hospital, according to a Washington State Patrol press release. Richard Green, 62, of Manson, Wash., and Carrie Green, 53, of Chelan, Wash. – the driver and the passenger in the pickup – were pronounced dead at the scene.

About 5:27 a.m., the semitruck, driven by 53-year-old Robert Raine, was eastbound on I-90 when it struck the Ford F250 pickup about 65 miles west of downtown Spokane, according to the Washington State Patrol.

The location of the parked pickup and the darkness contributed to the crash, officers said.

High gas prices outstrip pumps’ displays

Boise How expensive is gas in Idaho?

It’s so high that it became necessary for Gov. Dirk Kempthorne to sign a special order allowing dozens of old service stations to display their prices by the half-gallon – because their aging analog pumps don’t have the capability of showing a price of more than $2.99 per gallon.

Stations facing such a dilemma will still have to clearly label their pumps so that people aren’t duped into thinking gas has suddenly become wildly affordable, according to rules set by the state Department of Agriculture.

And gas prices – which hit $3.15 at some service stations Saturday in tourist areas including McCall and Ketchum – listed on the roadside signs will still be displayed by full gallon.

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, which damaged oil-drilling rigs in the Gulf of Mexico, as well as continuing uncertainty in the Middle East, Kempthorne also waived a requirement that low volatility fuel that limits smog emissions be sold to help increase supplies. He also allowed the sale of diesel fuel with higher sulfur content, mirroring a move earlier in the week by the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

“These actions will allow us to accommodate the extraordinary circumstances created by the devastation of Hurricane Katrina,” Kempthorne said in a statement.

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