Unemployment, employment

A job seeker fills out an application during a National Career Fairs job fair in April 2015 in Chicago.

M. Spencer Green, AP Photo,

TWIN FALLS — People who claimed unemployment in south-central Idaho last month: 2,479. Online job postings: 2,319.

Both numbers are on the decline.

As south-central Idaho’s unemployment hit a new low last month — 2.5 percent — it came as no surprise to Idaho Department of Labor Regional Economist Jan Roeser.

“I just kept anticipating it would continue to fall,” she said on Friday after the department released its latest estimates. “This is as low as we’ve gotten. Period.”

And Roeser believes that trend is only going to continue for the next few months.

“We’ve had a lot more diversification and we don’t have as much seasonal unemployment as we used to have,” she said.

While low unemployment stretches the area’s labor force and increases competition among businesses for workers, companies are either finding other solutions or waiting to see what happens. Which could explain why online job postings in the eight-county region are down.

According to The Conference Board’s HelpWanted Online data tool, there were 600 fewer job openings from mid-June to mid-July 2017 than that time the year before.

Meanwhile, the region’s labor force dropped half a percent from May, to 97,537. Roeser believes that’s a result of more retirees from the Baby Boomer generation — a trend her department had predicted.

Most of the region’s eight counties have reported labor forces decline over the past year. Twin Falls County lost 59 workers, and Gooding County lost 91. Jerome County, however was an exception — gaining 195 people.

“Jerome has just shown some terrific labor force growth,” Roeser said.

As an up-and-coming area in economic development, she believes affordable housing has attracted people to move there — including workers who previously commuted from Twin Falls.

Statewide, Idaho’s unemployment dropped to 3.1 percent in June as a result of more than 2,000 Idahoans leaving the workforce or ending their work search. Job declines took place in natural resources, manufacturing, financial activities, transportation and utilities. Industries that reported job gains included construction, government, professional and business services, information and education/health services.

While the Magic Valley is bucking the national trend with its growth in retail, Roeser also expects more economic development announcements in the coming weeks. These could exacerbate the workforce shortage.

Here’s a breakdown of each county’s unemployment rate in June:

Blaine: 2.4 percent

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Camas: 2.9 percent

Cassia: 2.4 percent

Gooding: 2.2 percent

Jerome: 2.4 percent

Lincoln: 2.7 percent

Minidoka: 2.6 percent

Twin Falls: 2.7 percent

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