"No experiment can be more interesting than that we are now trying, and which we trust will end in establishing the fact, that man may be governed by reason and truth. Our first object should therefore be, to leave open to him all the avenues to truth. The most effectual hitherto found, is the freedom of the press. It is, therefore, the first shut up by those who fear the investigation of their actions." --Thomas Jefferson to John Tyler, 1804.

ID jobless: Declining rates, higher numbers

NW Reading

Here’s an example of why looking at a single economic statistic doesn’t often tell the whole story. From the Idaho Department of Labor:

Fewer people seeking available jobs was enough to nudge Idaho’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate down a tenth of a percentage point to 7.4 percent in August.

The loss of 2,600 workers from the state’s labor force – the first July-August decline since 1980 – offset an increase in hiring by Idaho employers at a rate just above their recession-era average,

August’s jobless rate was the lowest in over three years, but it was also the third straight month Idaho’s labor force has contracted. The loss of more than 5,500 from the workforce through the summer – the largest three-month exodus of workers on record – left the labor force at its lowest level since January.

Nearly 1,100 fewer people were working in August than July, the second straight month employment has dropped after rising steadily for the previous year, and almost 1,600 more workers left the ranks of the jobless, dropping the number of officially unemployed Idaho workers to just over 57,000.

Although the national unemployment rate dropped two-tenths of a point to 8.1 percent, Idaho’s one-tenth reduction keeps the state rate below the national rate for 11 years.

Nonfarm jobs, which account for over 90 percent of Idaho’s employment, continued to run 1.1 percent ahead of a year earlier and were up a third of a percentage point from July to August, reflecting the persisting, albeit slow, recovery from the recession. While the state’s service sector is approaching pre-recession job levels, the production side of Idaho’s economy remains at 1993 levels. More than 1,000 manufacturing workers were idled in primarily seasonal food processing layoffs during the month.

Still, there were 17,000 more people working in Idaho in August than a year earlier and 11,000 fewer unemployed. In the past 13 months, the jobless rate has dropped from a recession high of 8.9 percent to 7.4 percent. Only five other states – Michigan, Ohio, Florida, Nevada and Mississippi – have posted greater declines.

The state’s declining labor force has played a role in driving Idaho’s jobless rate lower in recent months, but employers may be picking up their hiring. Businesses report hiring 18,400 workers in August – most to replace workers who retired, were fired, found other jobs or left for some other reason – matching the average August new hires during the economic expansion from 2003 through 2007.

For the second month in a row, the Conference Board, a Washington, D.C. business think tank, estimated fewer than five unemployed workers for every two job openings posted in Idaho, the lowest ratio since late 2008. At the peak of the recession in late 2009, there were nine unemployed workers for every two job openings posted in the state.

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