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In brief: Idaho unemployment rises, but beats U.S. rate

Sat., April 5, 2008

Idaho unemployment climbed one-fifth of a percent in March, the biggest month-to-month increase in 26 years, according to the Idaho Department of Labor.

But at 3 percent, the rate remained well below the 5.1 percent rate for the United States, and the number of people employed increased, although not as fast as the number of unemployed.

Total employment, at 733,717, was 25 more than in February and 4,000 ahead of the number for March 2007. Job losses in construction and manufacturing – a combined 8,000 – was the main drag. Retail and hospitality, which got a boost from a good ski season, were strong sectors, as was agriculture.

Of the five northern counties, Kootenai remained the strongest, adding more than 700 jobs to cut the unemployment rate to 3.2 percent from 3.3 percent in February.

The rate in Benewah County jumped 2 percent to 8.3 percent as employment dipped by 85 to 3,555. Bonner County held steady at 4.4 percent, the rate for Boundary County increased 1.8 percent to 7.2 percent, and Shoshone County’s rate climbed .6 percent to 5.3 percent.

Labor economist Kathryn Tacke said weakness in the timber industry and bad weather accounted for much of the slippage in the region.


U.S. Postal Service offers rate sessions

Business owners needing to understand new postal rates going into effect May 12 have two public sessions to get answers.

The U.S. Postal Service announced several postal rate increases. Single letter first-class postal rates are not changing.

Businesses will benefit from some changes that include online discounts for small business mailers and rebates for larger mailers.

The two sessions, hosted by the Postal Customer Council, are Tuesday and May 12. Both are free and start at 7:30 a.m. at Progressions Credit Union, 2919 E. Mission.

Pre-register by calling (509) 622-5753 or at


Chinese fund buys into French oil firm

French oil giant Total SA said Friday that a Chinese sovereign wealth fund has bought a large stake in the company for the first time.

Analysts said the purchase points to China’s thirst for access to raw materials to fuel its economic expansion, and presented little threat that the cash-rich fund would seek to take over Total – for political reasons.

The Financial Times reported that the buyer is China’s State Administration of Foreign Exchange, and that it bought a 1.6 percent stake in Total. That would be worth nearly $3.14 billion.

Total is France’s biggest company by market value, and would likely be defended from any possible takeover threat by French authorities.

Total stands to gain better access to China.


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