TWIN FALLS• Idaho’s labor force increased by 1,100 workers last month — the largest number in over a year — pushing the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate from 6.1 percent in April to 6.2 percent for May.
It was the first monthly increase in the unemployment rate since June 2011 when the rate hit 8.5 percent, just short of a post-recession high of 8.8 percent.
The number of workers off the job rose 900 to 47,500, erasing April’s decline.
The tenth of a percentage point increase in the Idaho rate matched the uptick in the national rate to 7.6 percent in May. But Idaho’s rate was still more than a percentage point below the May 2012 rate of 7.3 percent.
A modest pickup in hiring by employers increased employment by 300 from April to more than 724,300 after falling for the three straight months. Employers reported hiring over 18,200 workers for both existing and new jobs, the third strongest May on record and just 500 hires short of the May peak in 2007.
All major sectors of the economy except private education services reported increasing payrolls from April to May, and nearly all were at rates higher than average over the past 10 years. Education services dropped 300 jobs, reflecting the winding down of the traditional school year.
Overall private sector jobs were running nearly 3 percent ahead of May 2012. Government jobs, where the impact of recent federal budget cuts was beginning to be felt, was just two-tenths of a percentage point ahead of May 2012. Total jobs were 2.3 percent higher than a year earlier but still 3 percent below the prerecession peak.
Total employment across Idaho was 7,300 higher than in May 2012 while the number of unemployed was 8,900 lower than a year earlier. The most recent report from The Conference Board found two idled workers for every job posting in Idaho, well below the nearly five-to-one ratio posted during the depths of the recession.
Idaho’s economic improvement has brought a dramatic decline in unemployment insurance benefits of more than 50 percent over the year. An average of nearly 13,900 idled workers received $13.3 million in jobless benefits in May — $3.7 million of that in federal extended benefits — compared to nearly 29,000 who received $28.6 million in benefits in May 2012. Over $13 million of that was in federal extended benefits, which end in December. About 4,100 claimants were receiving federally financed benefits in May.