In North Idaho’s labor market, job seekers continue to hold the competitive advantage.
The region’s unemployment rate sunk to 3.4 percent in April, with each of the five counties posting record or near-record low unemployment. In real terms, nearly 102,000 of North Idaho’s residents have jobs and 3,500 are looking for work.
April marked the 20th straight month where the region’s unemployment rate was lower than the national average, which was 4.5 percent last month.
“Now the major complaint is lack of labor availability,” said Kathryn Tacke, a regional economist for Idaho’s Commerce & Labor Department in Coeur d’Alene.
“All of our offices are working with employers,” she said, “trying to help them find workers and retain workers, and providing wage information to help them be competitive.”
Last year, $16 per hour was the average hourly wage in Kootenai County. The median wage — half earn more, half earn less — was $12.90 per hour.
Rural areas as well as urban areas are prospering, Tacke said. Even Boundary County is adding construction jobs, as people who’ve been priced out of the Sandpoint market look for affordable homes and real estate, she said.
Every major industry in the region is adding workers except for wood products, which has been hampered by low lumber prices, Tacke said.
April unemployment rates, by county, were: Kootenai, 3.1 percent; Bonner, 3.2 percent; Boundary, 4.6 percent; Shoshone, 4.8 percent; and Benewah, 4.6 percent.
Shoshone County’s rate — the lowest since June 1981 — still tied with Adams County for the second highest unemployment rate in the state. Clearwater County had Idaho’s highest unemployment rate in April, 6.5 percent.