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ECON-MOOD

Job seekers speak with recruiters on Sept. 1, 2016, at a Recruit Military veterans job fair in Cleveland.

TWIN FALLS — As the trend of historically low unemployment continues in the state and the Magic Valley, the eight-county region is facing a declining labor force.

According to preliminary data released by the Idaho Department of Labor, south-central Idaho lost more than 300 workers between January and February this year. And early estimates show the civilian labor force may have declined 1.2 percent compared to last year. Labor force is measured by the number of people 16 and older who are actively working or looking for work.

Regional economist Jan Roeser believes the decline is largely the result of a nationwide trend, where aging Baby Boomers are increasingly choosing to retire.

“We are having heightened retirements,” Roeser said.

Preliminary estimates for February gauge south-central Idaho’s labor force at 100,213. Unemployment in February dropped to 2.7 percent from an estimated 3 percent the month before.

Three Magic Valley counties experienced small labor force increases over the two-month period: Minidoka County saw a 0.4 percent increase, Cassia County recorded a 0.1 increase and Jerome County saw an increase of just six workers. The numbers reported by the Idaho Department of Labor are seasonally adjusted.

Idaho as a state, meanwhile, is growing its labor force and tops the nation in job growth as well.

“We’re growing, but we’re growing in the larger metropolitan areas — not so much the smaller towns,” Roeser said.

Idaho’s statewide unemployment rate increased slightly to 2.9 percent in February — the 15th consecutive month at or below 3 percent. Total nonfarm jobs increased by one-half percent or 3,600 jobs over the month. The state’s labor force was up 2 percent over the year.

Here’s a breakdown of Magic Valley unemployment rates for January and February by county:

Blaine County

January — 2.5 percent

February — 2.6 percent

Camas County

January — 3.2 percent

February — 2.3 percent

Cassia County

January — 2.6 percent

February — 2.5 percent

Gooding County

January — 2.9 percent

February — 2.7 percent

Jerome County

January — 3 percent

February — 2.8 percent

Lincoln County

January — 3.8 percent

February — 3.1 percent

Minidoka County

January — 2.7 percent

February — 2.7 percent

Twin Falls County

January — 3.2 percent

February — 2.8 percent

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