April 21, 2012 in Business

Idaho jobless rate falls to 7.9 percent

 

Idaho’s March unemployment rate dropped below 8 percent for the first time in 2  1/2  years as a record number of state residents found work.

State officials said the 7.9 percent rate is now a full percentage point below the recession-era high in July 2011.

Employers across Idaho hired more than 13,500 people to fill openings in March. Contractors and manufacturers both added more workers. But even with the gains, construction employment remains at mid-1990s levels while manufacturing payrolls are still at early 1990s levels.

Retailers, transportation companies and the financial sector were also hiring.

Unemployment rates for North Idaho counties dropped during March compared to prior-year numbers, but rates still remain above the state average. March rates by county: Kootenai, 8.3 percent; Bonner, 10 percent; Boundary, 10.2 percent; Shoshone, 11.4 percent; and Benewah, 11.7 percent.

Idaho was among 30 states reporting lower rates in March, according to the Labor Department. Nationwide, job gains were reported in 29 states last month, the Associated Press reported.

Becky Kramer

EPA offers training for cleanup jobs

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is sponsoring a two-week program in May to train local residents for environmental cleanup jobs in the area.

The training is free, but to be considered for the program, applicants must attend one of four information sessions at the Shoshone Medical Center Health & Education building, 858 Commerce Drive, Smelterville.

Sessions are at 1 p.m. Wednesday, 9 a.m. Thursday, 1 p.m. April 30 and 9 a.m. May 1.

To get into the training program, applicants must be 18, have a valid driver’s license, be able to lift 50 pounds, pass a drug test and be willing to work outdoors in all weather.

Although experience is not required, a commercial driver’s license or experience operating heavy equipment is valued.

For more information, call (208) 297-3372.

Becky Kramer

WSU organic farm, focus get $5 million

Washington State University has received $5 million to bolster its organic farm and sustainable agriculture curriculum.

Chuck and Louanna Eggert, WSU alumni and founders of Pacific Natural Foods, donated the money. The WSU Organic Farm will be expanded from four acres to 30 acres.

WSU began offering the country’s first four-year organic agriculture systems major in 2006, catering to the annual double-digit growth in organic food sales.

The Eggerts founded their company 25 years ago in Tualatin, Ore., selling soy milk.

Today the company sells a broad range of foods in grocery retailers across the nation.

John Stucke

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