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Jobless rate dips in three North Idaho counties

The high unemployment rate in parts of North Idaho fell a little last month – the first positive sign in a year or more.

The jobless rate in August was 11.6 percent in Kootenai County, down from 11.8 percent in July, the Idaho Department of Labor reported today.

Bonner County also saw a dip of two-tenths of a percentage point, to 14.1 percent. And in Benewah County, the rate dropped to 14.3 percent in August, down from 14.9 percent a month earlier.

Shoshone County, however, saw a slight increase in unemployment claims, to 15.9 percent, as did Boundary County, which hit 15.3 percent in August.

Statewide, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped two-tenths of a percentage point in August, falling to its lowest level in 15 months. Although the rate was estimated at 9.2 percent – the lowest since May 2010 – 70,000 people were still out of work around the state.

The number of workers with jobs declined for the third straight month, dropping below 689,000 for the first time since March. Nearly 2,400 workers dropped out of the labor force in August, the second largest one-month drop on record. The largest was 2,600 in July.

The state tracked about 13,250 persons on unemployment in the five northern counties last month. That was 200 fewer than in July.

Employers throughout Idaho expanded payrolls by just 1,800 positions, matching the gain from July to August 2010 but far below the pre-recession average of 3,300 new jobs.

New hires in August totaled 14,500, above the past two years but well below the pre-recession norm of 18,400.

The Conference Board, a business think tank, estimated there were 3.7 unemployed Idaho workers for every job listed in August, the third month in a row that ratio has increased.