There was good news in employment in both Washington and Idaho this week.
Idaho finished 2014 with an unemployment rate of 3.7 percent in December, which represents a seven-year low, according to preliminary state forecasts.
In Washington, the jobless rate rose slightly in December to 6.3 percent, but the big news from the state Employment Security Department is that employment growth last year was the highest in 17 years. The department estimates employment increased by nearly 83,000 jobs, the highest since 1997.
A record 743,000 Idaho residents were employed last month, according to the forecast released Friday by the state Department of Labor. But the numbers also indicated that employment growth has slowed since spring.
Idaho’s total workforce also dropped slightly, reflecting an exodus from the labor force as baby boomers continue to retire.
The state’s unemployment rate averaged 4.6 percent for 2014, according to the preliminary forecast. A revised rate for last year will be released in March.
The unemployment rate measures the number of jobless people looking for work out of the total workforce.
Unemployment rates also dropped in North Idaho counties during December. The rates, by county, were: Kootenai, 4.3 percent; Bonner, 5.5 percent; Boundary, 5.7 percent; Benewah, 7 percent; and Shoshone, 6.8 percent.
Average unemployment rates for 2014 were: Kootenai, 5.3 percent; Bonner, 6.6 percent; Boundary, 6.4 percent; Benewah, 8.1 percent; and Shoshone, 8.7 percent.
Washington’s December unemployment rate of 6.3 percent compares to 6.2 percent in November and 6.7 percent in December 2013. The National rate for December is 5.6 percent.
Washington has 221,000 unemployed in a labor force of 3.5 million, the state Employment Security Department said Thursday.
Of the 83,000 jobs added over the past year, 73,000 were in the private sectors and 10,000 in the public sector. About 7,600 of those were added in December alone.