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New hiring highlights Idaho job picture as unemployment drops

Idaho unemployment averaged 9 percent in September, down from 9.2 percent the previous month and 9.5 percent in September 2010. Unemployment last month was below the national average for the first time since November.

Hiring levels that fell just short of those seen in the 2003-07 expansion helped reduce Idaho unemployment last month, the state Department of Labor reported. Job gains above expansion-era averages were seen in nondurable manufacturing, transportation, food service and education. Construction, business services, restaurants and hotels held their own with expansion-era averages.

New hires fell less than 19 percent short of the expansion-era average in September, when employers reported hiring more than 17,000 workers.

While most newly hired workers got their jobs for reasons other than a new job being created, a high number of new hires is encouraging, Idaho Department of Labor spokesman Bob Fick said.

“It means a lot of movement in the labor market,” he said. “People receive better opportunities.” In contrast to stagnant hiring, a high number of new hires means people are seeking and finding new jobs as well as increased wages, he said.

September marked the second month  job totals exceeded the year-earlier number. The Idaho Department of Labor reported the state is on course to increase total employment in 2011, if trends continue, following three years of declines.

Idaho employment has been steady for the most part in the last 15 months, with some small “leakages,” Fick said.

“If we get to the point where we have actually increased jobs year over year, that would be an indication we’re at bottom and starting to move up,” he said.

Nonfarm jobs were 601,600 for the first nine months of the year, up 700 from 600,900 in the year-earlier period, Fick said. If job totals for October through December match last year’s, the 2011 number will be 500 jobs higher than that of 2010, he said.

U.S. unemployment was 9.1 percent in September.

The Idaho report lags the national report in part so county figures can be included. Twenty-seven of Idaho’s 44 counties reported lower unemployment in September than August, while 14 reported higher rates, the Idaho Department of Labor said.

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