Business

Unemployment rates rise sharply

4.4 percent are jobless in Kootenai County

Unemployment shot up in North Idaho last month as construction continued to slow and more wood products jobs disappeared.

The jobless rate in Kootenai County hit 4.4 percent in July, up sharply from 3.8 percent in June and 2.6 percent in July 2007, the Idaho Department of Labor said Friday.

The number of unemployed in the county jumped by nearly 400 last month, and the labor force shrank by about 850.

Unemployment in Coeur d’Alene climbed half a percentage point, to 4.6 percent, in July.

“Even though the rate definitely has risen, it’s still extremely low by historic standards,” said Kathryn Tacke, a regional economist with the Department of Labor in Coeur d’Alene.

“But it does indicate that Kootenai County is suffering from some of the same problems the U.S. economy is suffering from,” Tacke said.

The county has about 600 construction jobs – 10 percent fewer than a year ago, she said.

In addition, the July numbers reflect the full impact of the loss of the DeArmond lumber mill, the last sawmill on Coeur d’Alene’s waterfront. Stimson Lumber Co. shut the mill in May amid record-low lumber prices and a shaky national housing market.

Other job losses have come from attrition, Tacke said. “Employers aren’t replacing people when they leave,” she said.

Washington’s jobless numbers for July will come out mid-month. In June, the state’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate increased to 5.5 percent, up from May’s rate of 5.3 percent, according to the state Employment Security Department.

In Idaho, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rates also rose last month in Bonner County (4.1 percent), Shoshone County (5.9 percent) and Benewah County (4.9 percent). It remained at 5.8 percent in Boundary County.

Statewide unemployment was 4.1 percent in July, ending a 37-month string of rates under 4 percent. In June the statewide rate stood at 3.8 percent.

A sluggish construction sector and further job erosion in high technology continue to drive employment below levels seen a year ago, explained Bob Fick, spokesman for the state Department of Labor.

That was compounded in July by the seasonal influx into the labor force of young workers who this year have been unable to find summer jobs, Fick said in a press release. But in the Coeur d’Alene, Post Falls and Sandpoint areas, teens have had an easier time finding summer work, Tacke said.

The ranks of the unemployed in Idaho rose last month by 2,400 to just over 31,000, the highest number of unemployed Idaho workers since October 2004.

Compared to July 2007, there were 14,100 more people out of work last month, with two-thirds of those in the Boise area.



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