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Idaho jobless rate falls to 2-year low in November

Fri., Dec. 16, 2011, 8:15 a.m.

The unemployment rate in Idaho fell three-tenths of a percentage point to a two-year low of 8.5 percent in November. State officials say that’s the largest one-month decline since 1983.

And in Kootenai County, the unemployment rate last month fell half a percentage point, to 10.1 percent. A year ago the jobless rate there was 11.5 percent, and there were an additional 1,100 people claiming unemployment in the county in November 2010.

Employers across the state maintained payrolls at higher-than-normal levels for October and November, the state Department of Labor reported today.

Employers cut just 2,300 jobs from October, less than half the average reduction during the previous four years. The average decline during the expansion from 2003 through 2006 was just 900.

Seasonal layoffs in construction, manufacturing, employment agencies and agriculture and food processing were augmented by the closure of the Clearwater Paper mill in Lewiston and some government layoffs.

But over 3,000 more people were working in November than October, pushing total employment above 695,000 for the first time since April 2009. Unemployment fell to 65,000, the lowest in two years. It was the third month in a row that employment has risen and seasonally adjusted unemployment declined.

Should the numbers hold through the revision process in January and February, Idaho’s unemployment rate will have fallen 1.2 percentage points in just eight months. Idaho’s jobless rate was 9.6 percent in November 2010.

The last time that kind of rapid decline was recorded was during the recovery from the double-dip recession of the early 1980s, labor officials said.

Other North Idaho counties recorded sharp declines in the unemployment rate in November. The rate fell:

•to 12.3 percent in Bonner County, down from 12.9 percent in October.

•to 12.6 percent in Benewah and Boundary counties, from 13.6 percent a month earlier.

•to 13 percent in Shoshone County, down from 14.3 percent in October.

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