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Jobless rate falls sharply in Idaho

Kootenai sees decline of half a percent

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 Friday.

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 more than 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.

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

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

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Then and Now: Comstock Park

James M. Comstock, born in 1838 in Wisconsin, arrived in Spokane in time to witness the great fire of 1889 and start Spokane Dry Goods with Robert Paterson. It became the Crescent, Spokane’s premier department store for a century. He also worked in real estate and owned other businesses. He served a term as Spokane mayor, starting in 1899. James Comstock died in 1918.