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Idaho unemployment highest in 25 years

Seasonally adjusted unemployment in Idaho rose half a percentage point in June, to 8.3 percent. It’s the highest jobless rate since October 1983, the state Department of Labor said today.

The jobless rate in Kootenai County also went up half a percentage point, to 8.6 percent. But unemployment fell in some rural counties in North Idaho as warmer weather and federal stimulus dollars boosted work.

Another 3,400 workers lost their jobs last month, and the total number of unemployed topped 62,000 for the first time ever, the agency reported.

Idaho’s 50,000 employers reported hiring 14,500 new workers in June – the lowest total for that month since 1998, when such information was first compiled.

Job opportunities in every sector but education and health care ran well below the June average for the previous five years, said Bob Fick, department spokesman.

Based on preliminary estimates, there were nearly 40,000 fewer jobs in Idaho than in June 2008. Total employment is less than 686,000 – the lowest level since March 2005.

June marked the second straight month that Idaho’s unemployment rate posted a larger increase than the national rate, which rose just one-tenth of a point, to 9.5 percent.

The unemployment rate rose slightly to 8.9 percent in Bonner County and remained level at 11.6 percent in Shoshone County, but it dropped in Benewah and Boundary counties. June’s joblessness fell 3.5 percentage points, to 8.6 percent, in Benewah County; it fell 1.2 point, to 10.1 percent, in Boundary County.

Kathryn Tacke, the labor department’s regional labor economist for North Idaho, cited two factors in rising employment in those counties: warmer, drier weather that allowed loggers to get back into he woods; and federal stimulus funds creating jobs such as brush cleanup and road building in area forests and highway and bridge construction.

The continued rise in Kootenai County’s unemployment, Tacke said, reflects weakness across all sectors except health care as well as less hiring for summer jobs, including construction.