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Applications for US unemployment benefits fall to 262,000

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

BURLEY — Doug Manning remembers when he didn’t believe unemployment could ever get below 4 percent.

But long before Idaho completed its 12th consecutive month of unemployment below 3 percent, he became a believer. In August, the Idaho Department of Labor announced Idaho’s unemployment was 2.8 percent. Cassia County was even lower: 1.9 percent.

Manning, the economic development director for the city of Burley, expects things won’t change much anytime soon. But employers, he said, are still finding enough workers.

“We have people moving into the area all the time,” he said.

As a region, the eight counties of south-central Idaho hit 2.2 percent unemployment last month, compared to 2.7 percent in July. The region lost 567 workers — but unemployment claims dropped by 486.

Still, year-over-year labor force growth remains strong as Idaho continues attracting workers. The state’s population was the fastest-growing from 2016 to 2017, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

“Idaho has a lot going for it,” Idaho Department of Labor Regional Economist Jan Roeser said. “We don’t have these huge devastating natural disasters. We have jobs. We have a lot of cool recreation that people identify with.”

August is typically a time of low unemployment, with the harvest coming on and schools back in session. Cassia County’s was the lowest unemployment rate in the region, with an estimated 221 jobless individuals last month.

Roeser believes this is largely due to manufacturers hiring and creating new jobs. McCain Foods in Burley is nearly complete with its expansion and NewCold is already hiring managers while still under construction.

In Twin Falls and Jerome Counties, the unemployment rate dropped to 2.3 percent, compared to about 2.8 percent a year ago.

Manufacturing still accounted for the highest percentage of unemployment claims in the region, but the number of claims declined 46 percent from July to 43 claims.

The labor force, meanwhile, shrunk across the board in August, possibly due to college students leaving town for four-year universities and high school students leaving summer jobs to return to school, Roeser said. Cassia County, especially, has a high percentage of younger people, she said.

The Idaho Department of Labor estimates the number of people 16 and older who are looking for work in south-central Idaho totals about 100,990. That’s still a 1.3 percent increase from a year ago.

Editor's Note: This story was updated Sept. 27 to clarify there were an estimated 221 unemployed individuals in Cassia County in August. An earlier version of the story incorrectly stated there were 221 who filed for unemployment. 

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