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Idaho unemployment down to 3% in May

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In this file photo, a McDonald's in Boise advertises it is hiring for $11 per hour. Treasure Valley McDonald's later raised that to $13 an hour to hire workers. (Audrey Dutton/Idaho Capital Sun)

Extra unemployment benefits related to COVID-19 will end Saturday

Idaho’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate dropped slightly, from 3.1% in April to 3% in May, according to a press release from the Idaho Department of Labor. The state’s overall labor force grew by one-tenth of a percent, the second consecutive month of labor force gains.

Six industries saw significant job losses, including natural resources (-2.5%), construction (-1.2%), other services (-1.2%), leisure and hospitality (-0.5%), professional and business services (-0.4%), and trade, transportation and utilities (-0.3%). Education and health services (+0.3%) and total government (+0.1%) were the only two industries showing job gains. Manufacturing, information and financial activities saw no change, according to the release.

Two of Idaho’s five largest areas saw non-farm job gains. Jobs in Idaho Falls grew by 0.3%, followed by Boise at 0.2%. Lewiston, Pocatello and Coeur d’Alene all showed job losses of -1%, -0.5% and -0.1% respectively.

The release was sent one day before extended unemployment benefits that were issued during the COVID-19 pandemic are set to end on Saturday.

The following federal programs that will end include:

  • Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation, which provides an additional $300 weekly payment for claimants
  • Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, which benefits those who would not usually qualify for unemployment, such as self-employed workers
  • Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation, which extends benefits once regular benefits have been exhausted

When the decision to end the benefits was announced in May, Gov. Brad Little said employers were telling him one of the major reasons they could not recruit and retain some workers was because of the enhanced benefits.
Some research has shown the enhanced benefit of $600 per week that was available earlier in the pandemic had little to no impact on employment, while the current enhanced benefit is half that amount.

Compared to this time last year, the Idaho Department of Labor showed non-farm jobs up 8.9% (+63,900), with every sector showing increases. Leisure and hospitality, the most affected industry during the pandemic, is 37% above where it was a year ago and has increased 4.1% above pre-pandemic levels in February 2020, according to the release.