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Special assistance approved for laid-off Simplot workers

More than 1,000 laid-off workers at Simplot Corp. potato processing operations in Nampa, Caldwell, Aberdeen and Heyburn are now eligible for special assistance in finding new jobs, under a union petition approved by the federal government under the Trade Adjustment Assistance program. The benefits, similar to those recently announced for laid-off Micron Technology workers, are for those laid off from Aug. 14, 2012 through late 2015, the Idaho Department of Labor announced today.

The union petition, from the Bakery, Confectionary, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers International Union, came after the company announced it would close facilities in those cities in favor of a new, higher-tech plant in Canyon County that will need only a quarter of the workers and will open next spring. The assistance includes no-cost retraining, job-search and relocation aid and more; click below for the full announcement.

Special assistance approved for laid-off Micron workers

Special assistance has been approved for more than 350 Micron Technology workers laid off in Idaho since August of 2012 because of foreign competition; the Idaho Department of Labor announced today that the workers are eligible for special job assistance under the Trade Adjustment Program. That includes no-cost retraining, expenses related to job-hunting, relocation expenses and some additional benefits after regular state unemployment benefits are exhausted. The aid also will be available to any additional workers laid off from Micron through 2015; click below for the full Department of Labor announcement.

Workforce training program shifts gears, gives grants to colleges

Idaho’s workforce training program is shifting gears, with the announcement today that it’s awarding grants to Boise State University, North Idaho College and Idaho State University for new programs, backed by local employers, to train graduates for high-paying jobs. BSU will train more computer science graduates; NIC will train students in wood products manufacturing; and ISU will train more physician’s assistants.

Previously, the state workforce training fund, which is funded by a portion of unemployment taxes that businesses pay, doled out training grants to businesses to reimburse them for training workers for new jobs that would pay at least $12 an hour and provide benefits. It’s drawn criticism when big grants were paid out to businesses that then failed. Among the notable failures: The shuttered Hoku plant in Pocatello, and the Micron/Transform Solar project, which received $1.5 million in training grants before closing.

That type of grant is still being awarded; Chobani was promised $3.3 million in training grants for its new Greek yogurt plant in Twin Falls, and Frulac has been awarded a $1.2 million training grant for a new fruit processing center in Rupert.

The grants to the colleges, however, are a departure – the first for the fund since it was established in 1996. They’re part of the fund’s new Industry Sector Grant Initiative, under which grants will go to educational institutions that partner with at least three Idaho businesses to train workers in a target occupation critical to those businesses; the businesses must put up matching funds equal to at least 25 percent of the grant. So at BSU, Clearwater Analytics, Cradlepoint, Focus IP, Hewlett-Packard, Impact Sales, Keynetics, MetaGeek and WhiteCloud Analytics are providing the $310,768 in matching funds for a $1 million grant that will allow the school to double its number of computer science graduates from 30 to 60 a year. Those grads will be trained for jobs that typically pay more than $30 an hour.

At NIC, Idaho Forest Group, Potlatch Corp. and Stimson Lumber are providing the $93,679 in matching funds for a $281,036 grant; at ISU, St. Luke’s, St. Al’s, and Blue Cross of Idaho are putting up the $141,709 match for a $532,180 grant.

You can read the Idaho Department of Labor’s full announcement here about the new initiative and the three grants. More than 200 companies have received grants of more than $45 million from the workforce training fund since it started.

Job fairs set for Dec. 2 for seasonal Forest Service jobs in 2014 summer season

Thinking about working for the Forest Service next summer, in anything from firefighting to recreation, wildlife, fisheries tech or range management? Plan ahead, is the advice from the Idaho Department of Labor, which reports that the Forest Service has scheduled job fairs for Dec. 2 at all 25 state employment offices around the state, each running from 12:30 to 4 p.m. local time. The job fairs are informational, said Robin Hollis, a workforce consultant with the Department of Labor, offering a chance to talk with the Forest Service about what’s available and where and when to apply. “When is really key,” she said, “Because  in January is when they do their first fire hire, for the 2014 fire season. A lot of people don’t realize that they should be building their profile now in usajobs.gov.”

The actual job postings likely will be out in late December or January, depending on the type of summer seasonal job, Hollis said. Click below for the Department of Labor’s full announcement.

Otter names Ken Edmunds to replace retiring Roger Madsen as Labor chief

With longtime Idaho Department of Labor Director Roger Madsen's planned retirement taking effect today, Gov. Butch Otter has announced his pick for the new director: Ken Edmunds, a Twin Falls business consultant and current member of the state Board of Education. Madsen, an attorney and former state senator, was first appointed to the post by Gov. Phil Batt in 1995; the next three governors, Dirk Kempthorne, Jim Risch and Otter, all retained him in the post.

“The Department of Labor has had extraordinary leadership under Roger for 18 years,” Otter said in his announcement. “I’m confident that Ken will continue that tradition of excellence while bringing valuable perspective to the job of helping prepare Idaho’s workforce for the future.” He added, “Ken’s years on the Board of Education and his private-sector experience will be critically important in positioning the Department of Labor to advance its collaborative efforts with the education and economic development communities and Idaho employers.”

Edmunds has served on the Board of Education since 2008. He holds a master’s degree in accounting from BYU, and has had his own business, financial and real estate consulting business, Edmunds Group, for the past 25 years. His current state board term runs through 2018, so Otter will need to appoint a replacement to the board. Click below for Otter's full announcement.

Edmunds, 58, said he became interested in the job through his interest and work on workforce development and improving Idaho's economy through various state board projects. “It turns out if anything I probably have greater opportunities for workforce development and growing the economy through the Idaho Department of Labor than I would have in any other venue,” he said. “It's an exciting opportunity and really just gives me a chance to pursue some of the things that I've become very focused on through the Board of Education.”

Edmunds will start on Nov. 25; his salary has not been set yet. “We'll work it out - it's a detail,” he said. “It's going to be hard to fill Roger's shoes.” Said Edmunds, “He's done a wonderful job. The department is probably as well respected an entity as you're going to find.”

Job fairs to recruit for 1,800 jobs at big new call center just west of Boise

The Idaho Department of Labor has scheduled eight job fairs at its offices around southwestern Idaho over the next week to help MAXIMUS Inc. hire up to 1,800 permanent and seasonal customer service representatives and operations support staff for a large call center it plans to open in Garden City, on the Hewlett-Packard campus. Click below for Labor's full announcement, including the times, dates and locations for all the job fairs. The call center is expected to open sometime in the fall, though the Department of Labor has no specific date.

Labor seeks workforce training proposals for new $1 million grants

The Idaho Department of Labor is seeking proposals for new workforce training initiatives that bring industry and educational institutions together in a partnership to enhance Idaho workers' skills. The new Industry Sector Grant program will start out by offering three two-year grants of up to $1 million each to educational institutions that partner with at least three Idaho businesses to train workers in a target occupation critical to those businesses. The business partners must provide a 25 percent cash match to the department grant, which will come from the industry-financed Workforce Development Training Fund.

“These grants are designed to increase employment and wages by providing the kind of training that creates a pool of Idaho workers capable of meeting the demands of high-wage industries,” said Roger Madsen, department director; click below for the department's full announcement.

Idaho jobless rate falls to 7 percent

Idaho's unemployment rate continued to fall in October, dropping another tenth of a percentage point to 7 percent, the lowest level in 3-1/2 years, the Idaho Department of Labor reports. That was nearly a full percentage point below the national unemployment rate, which rose a tenth to 7.9 percent in October. You can read the full report here from Idaho DOL, and a breakdown here by county, city and labor market areas within the state.
  

Idaho Dept. of Labor warns employers about fraudulent email requests

The Idaho Department of Labor is warning that emails being sent to employers seeking information on former employees who may have filed unemployment insurance claims are fraudulent, and employers should ignore them. The emails, purporting to be from the state “Division of Unemployment Assistance” and coming from the email address claim@detma.org have been reported so far in the eastern United States and most recently in Montana. They appear to be an attempt at identity theft, the department said. In Idaho, the agency responsible for unemployment insurance claims is the Unemployment Insurance/Benefits Division of the Idaho Department of Labor, and it doesn't request confidential employee information by email; the department instead would make such requests by telephone, mail, or its secure employer electronic system, ECORE.

Unemployment fell in August, but state’s workforce still shrank

Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) ― Idaho's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell slightly to 7.4 percent in August, in part because fewer people are looking for work. Idaho lost 2,600 workers from its labor force between July and August and more than 5,500 over the summer ― the largest three-month exodus of workers on record in the state. The state Labor Department says nearly 1,100 fewer people were working in August while 1,600 left the ranks of the jobless, dropping the number of people considered to be unemployed to just over 57,000. Since the recession, more than 15,000 workers have exhausted their unemployment benefits without finding jobs and hundreds more lost extended benefits. Businesses report hiring 18,400 workers in August, mostly to replace departing workers.

Vets invited to ‘Hiring Our Heroes’ job fair

Job-hunting veterans and their job-hunting spouses are being invited to a big job fair for vets next week at the Idaho Center entitled “Hiring Our Heroes.” It'll be next Wednesday, Sept. 12, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; participants are asked to pre-register online here. The job fair will feature more than 85 employers, all with current job openings; it is open to military veterans, their spouses, and members of the National Guard and reserve. One in a string of such events across the nation, it's sponsored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Idaho Committee of the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve, the Idaho Department of Labor, the American Legion, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and more.

Chris Ramos, Idaho Department of Labor veterans program coordinator, said, “This is a real opportunity for Idaho employers to take advantage of the skills and abilities veterans bring to the workplace, and for veterans and their families to get an opportunity for employment with some of Idaho's great businesses.” The event is free, both for the veterans and the employers; for more information, contact Roberto Gonzales at the department, 364-7781 ext. 3372. The department also is sponsoring a workshop for veterans tomorrow to prepare for the job fair; it'll be at 1 p.m. at the Canyon County office, 4514 Thomas Jefferson St., in Caldwell; contact Gonzales to sign up.

Idaho employers pay higher unemployment insurance tax, in part because of fraud

Idaho employers facing high unemployment insurance costs can, in part, blame those who get fraudulent benefits, the Associated Press reports; the Idaho Department of Labor is now trying to recover $20 million in fraudulent payments. The state's unemployment trust fund already was under pressure as the 2008 recession pushed the jobless rate north of 9 percent, forcing the state to borrow from the federal government, then sell bonds to repay the debt; the rate at which employers pay into the fund is now at its maximum.

In this year's legislative session, the department proposed a fine for employers who don't report new hires, enabling those workers to fraudulently keep collecting unemployment benefits; it passed the Senate unanimously but was narrowly rejected in the House. Since then, the department has tried radio ads to try to encourage employers to comply with the reporting requirement. Click below for a full report from AP reporter John Miller.

Idaho jobless rate hits three-year low

Idaho's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate hit a three-year low in July, falling two-tenths of a percentage point to 7.5 percent, the Idaho Department of Labor reports. Meanwhile, the national unemployment rate rose a tenth of a point in July, to 8.3 percent.

The Conference Board estimated that Idaho now has fewer than five unemployed workers for every two posted job openings. Back at the peak of the recession in 2009, there were nine unemployed people jostling for every two posted job openings in the state. You can read the full announcement here from the Department of Labor.

Idaho unemployment drops to 7.7% in June

Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) ― State officials say the number of unemployed workers in Idaho has dipped below 60,000 for the first time in nearly three years. Idaho's jobless rate fell to 7.7 percent in June and 59,000 workers counted as unemployed, or about 700 fewer than the previous month. The state Department of Labor says August 2009 marked the last time Idaho had fewer than 60,000 workers without jobs. The agency says payments from Idaho's unemployment trust fund were also down last month, as fewer than 21,000 workers received $19.7 million in benefits. That's a big decrease compared to a year ago, when more than 30,000 workers received $28.8 million in June 2011. Nationwide, jobless rates fell in just 11 states and Washington D.C.

May jobless rate up a tenth, ending string of 9 straight monthly declines

Here's a news item from the Associated Press: BOISE, Idaho (AP) ― The state Department of Labor says Idaho's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate rose a tenth of a percentage point to 7.8 percent in May, ending a string of nine straight monthly declines. The agency says more people entered the job market while hiring slowed in much of the service sector. The national unemployment rate also was up a tenth to 8.2 percent for May. Over 721,000 Idaho residents had jobs in May, while fewer than 61,000 were unemployed. In May 2011, total employment was under 702,000 and 67,500 workers were unemployed.

Idaho jobless rate drops for 9th straight month

Idaho's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate has dropped for the ninth straight month, falling to 7.7 percent for April. That's two-tenths of a percentage point down from March. Idaho Department of Labor spokesman Bob Fick said employers hired at seasonal levels in April, and the number of Idahoans with jobs was up by 1,700 from March. Hiring in all sectors was normal for this time of the year, Fick reported, except for government and professional and business services, which saw below-normal hiring. It was the third straight month that hires have exceeded the five-year average. You can read Fick's full report here.
  

Idaho unemployment drops for 8th straight month, falls to 7.9%

Idaho's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped below 8 percent in March for the first time in two and a half years, the Idaho Department of Labor reports. The drop to 7.9 percent was the eight straight month that the state's jobless rate fell; more Idahoans found work in March than in any other month since October of 2006. You can read the full announcement from Labor here.

Libraries offer summer jobs for low-income, tech-savvy teens…

More than 40 summer jobs for low-income, tech-savvy teens around the state are open at their local libraries, which are looking for teens for new grant-funded summer positions as “digital literary coaches” - teachers of basic computer skills to library patrons; the participating libraries each have one or two positions. “The unemployment rate for Idaho teenagers last year was over 20 percent,” library commission spokeswoman Teresa Lipus said. “These jobs offer a helping hand to young people, especially those from low-income homes, while at the same time help Idahoans from all walks of life navigate the computer world.”

The jobs, which pay minimum wage, are for those age 16-21; more than 70 percent of Idaho's libraries are the only free source of Internet access in their communities. Click below for more info in the full announcement from the Commission for Libraries and the Idaho Department of Labor.

Labor, IRS to work together to recoup unemployment overpayments

Idaho's Department of Labor will start intercepting federal tax refunds headed to more than 5,000 Idahoans next year, to recover nearly $10 million in unemployment benefit overpayments due to fraud or misreported earnings. To avoid the move, the people involved, who all are being notified, will have to repay the amounts by Jan. 3, 2012, including interest and penalties; agree to a repayment plan; or request a review. For information, call toll-free (800) 672-5627.

 Department official Larry Ingram said department has collected $23 million in overpayments, interest and penalties since 2007, and has withheld state income tax refunds as part of its collection efforts, but this year will be the first time federal officials have allowed it to tap into federal income tax refunds.

70% of Idaho employers aren’t complying with new-hires reporting law

Most Idaho employers aren't complying with a law requiring them to report new hires to the state Department of Labor within 20 days, the department says, making it harder for the department to track things like overpaid unemployment benefits and deadbeat parents who owe child support. AP reporter Jessie Bonner reports that only about 30 percent of employers are complying with the 1997 state law; click below for her full report.

Idaho wounded warrior job training program wins national award

Idaho has won a national award for its Wounded Warrior Transportation Job Training pilot program, a grant-funded program aimed at vets injured in Afghanistan and Iraq that helps them train for and find employment in the transportation field. Twenty vets are either currently in school or recently graduated as part of the program, which offers training through the College of Western Idaho; 15 are earning commercial driver’s licenses, three graduated from flagger/safety courses, and two renewed commercial licenses. “We’re ready to move forward on a statewide proposal as additional money becomes available,” said Michelle George, who works in the Idaho Transportation Department's human resources office, and wrote the $99,300 grant with Chris Ramos of the Idaho Department of Labor; the money comes from the Federal Highway Administration.

The program helps the wounded vets with financial assistance for training, day care, transportation, records, licensing and certification. It was awarded the 2011 President’s Transportation Award in Administration from the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO).

CdA Average Wage At Idaho Bottom

Item: Local average wage drops: Coeur d'Alene is lowest among Idaho's metro areas at $17.22/Brian Walker, Press

More Info: Coeur d'Alene had the lowest average wage among the state's five metropolitan areas in 2010 and was the only one that saw a wage decline from the previous year, according to a study released on Tuesday by the Idaho Department of Labor. The Coeur d'Alene metro area's average wage in 2010 was $17.22 per hour, a dime less than in 2009. The area's median wage, the point where half the workers are paid more and half are paid less, declined to $13.52 from $13.89 the previous year.

Question: What is Coeur d'Alene doing wrong?

17 North Idaho Towns Lose Population

Here are the North Idaho towns that lost population from mid-2008 to mid-2009: Bonners Ferry, -29; Clark Fork, -2; East Hope, -1; Kellogg, -33; Kootenai, -1; Mullan, -12; Oldtown, -1; Osburn, -22; Pinehurst, -23; Plummer, -18; Ponderay, -3; Priest River, -7; Smelterville, -10; St. Maries, -41; Tensed, -2; Wallace, -13; Wardner, -3. You can read all the gains and losses for Idaho’s 200 towns in the Idaho Department of Labor census report here.

Question: What size would you say is a perfect population for a town?