The unemployment rate fell in August across North Idaho and statewide, due in part to fewer people seeking jobs.
The Idaho rate fell to 7.4 percent, down slightly from July. In Kootenai County, the August jobless rate was 9 percent, down from 9.3 percent the month before.
The rate was lower in Bonner, Boundary, Benewah and Shoshone counties as well.
The loss of 2,600 workers from the state’s labor force – the first July-to-August decline since 1980 – offset an increase in hiring by employers at a rate just above their recession-era average, said Bob Fick, spokesman for the Idaho Department of Labor.
The August jobless rate statewide was the lowest in more than three years, but it also was the third straight month Idaho’s labor force has contracted, Fick explained.
The loss of more than 5,500 from the workforce through the summer was the largest three-month exodus of workers on record in the state and has left the labor force at its lowest level since January.
Still, there were 17,000 more people working in Idaho in August than a year earlier, and 11,000 fewer unemployed. In the past 13 months, the jobless rate has dropped a point and a half from a recession high of 8.9 percent.
Employers may be picking up their hiring, Fick said. Businesses report hiring 18,400 workers in August, mostly to replace workers who retired, were fired, found other jobs or left for some other reason. That rate of hiring matches the average August new hires during the economic expansion from 2003 through 2007, he said.