Applications for US unemployment benefits fall to 262,000

This April 22, 2014, file photo shows an employment application form on a table during a job fair at Columbia-Greene Community College in Hudson, N.Y.

MIKE GROLL, The Associated Press file

TWIN FALLS — If you’re thinking of changing jobs, now is a good time to start looking.

South-central Idaho’s seasonally adjusted unemployment dropped to 2.3 percent in August, according to preliminary estimates. And despite a steady decline in job postings, the region continues to experience a job-seeker’s market.

“Kick some tires and make sure you are where you want to be,” Idaho Department of Labor Regional Economist Jan Roeser suggested.

And make sure you look at the benefits a future employer might offer.

“Having that power to negotiate allows you to walk in with a little more confidence,” she said.

But it can be a bit frustrating for employers. Jerome City Administrator Mike Williams said that back in April, the city finally managed to hire a staff engineer after a lengthy search. It look a lot of convincing to recruit the new hire, who came from Las Vegas, he said.

And that was while Jerome County’s unemployment was still hovering around 3 percent. With a 2.2 percent unemployment rate in August, it probably wouldn’t be any easier to hire for that position now.

“It’s been a struggle for everyone to get people, find people and retain people,” Williams said.

But one highlight the county has seen: year-over-year, its workforce has grown by 240 people. That’s more than double the number of workers Twin Falls County gained — about 90.

“I think it’s probably just incremental, organic growth in our industries,” Williams said.

The labor department reported Friday that Idaho’s statewide seasonally adjusted unemployment is at its lowest level in 10 years, 2.9 percent. And in south-central Idaho, Roeser said, it’s the lowest it has ever been as a region.

“We’re going to see it go down again because of harvest,” she projected.

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Roeser noted, however, that the region has generally become less seasonal in its hiring and layoffs over the past five years.

While counties individually have reported rates this low before, it’s unusual to see it for months at a time, she said. And in Mini-Cassia, unemployment wasn’t this low even pre-Recession.

South-central Idaho’s total labor force is higher than a year ago, at just above 98,000. But it isn’t as high as it had been earlier this year, when the region’s labor force topped 99,000 people.

Statewide, Idaho’s labor force jumped 3,151 people. Its non-farm jobs have grown by 2,400 over the past month, with a net gain of 15,200 over the year. Construction grew the fastest of all jobs, at 4.5 percent.

Job growth was 2.7 percent in Twin Falls and Jerome counties from July 2016 to July 2017 — the latest monthly job data available at the county level — Roeser said.

“If you want a job,” Williams said, “you’re in the driver’s seat.”

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