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Idaho’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell to 4.4 percent in December, and nonfarm payrolls regained 4,900 jobs as the state’s economy continues to recover.

December’s unemployment rate is down one-half of a percentage point from November’s revised 4.9 percent and currently stands 7.4 percentage points below April’s historic high of 11.8 percent.

Civilian Labor Force

Idaho’s seasonally adjusted labor force grew by 3,173 in December to 907,552, up 1.4 percent (+12,920) over its pre-pandemic level in March.

The total number of employed people increased by 6,916 to 867,423 in December. This 0.8 percent increase in total employed was the first significant increase since July.

Subsequently, the number of unemployed Idahoans fell by 8.5 percent to 40,129 as 3,743 people found work.

December’s labor force participation rate – the percentage of people 16 years and older with jobs or looking for work – was 63.9 percent, unchanged from November.

Idaho’s labor force continued to show year-over-year gains, up 2.1 percent (+18,894 people) from December 2019. Total unemployment remained 14,740 (+58.1 percent) higher than year-ago levels due to the large pandemic-related job losses earlier in 2020. However, the number of Idahoans with jobs was up five-tenths of a percent (+4,154), the first substantial year-over-year increase since March.


Nonfarm Jobs

An additional 4,900 nonfarm jobs brought December’s total to 773,700 (+0.6 percent), exceeding the state’s pre-pandemic peak of 771,800 jobs. Six industry sectors experienced some job gains from November, with the most significant increases in leisure and hospitality (+2.2 percent), trade, transportation and utilities (+1.6 percent) and construction (+1.3 percent). Information (-5.1 percent), other services (-1.9 percent) and government (-0.6 percent) saw the greatest over-the-month declines.

Seasonally adjusted nonfarm jobs were up by 4,600 over December 2019, representing a year-over-year increase of 0.6 percent. Seven industries experienced year-over-year job gains, led by financial activities (+8.9 percent), trade, transportation and utilities (+5.5 percent), natural resources (+5.3 percent) and construction (+5 percent). Leisure and hospitality was up 0.9 percent over last year, while the remaining three industries hit hardest by pandemic job losses — information (-19.4 percent), other services (-8 percent), and education and health services (-3.5 percent) — were still below year-ago levels. Government also experienced a year-over-year loss of 5 percent.


Three of Idaho’s five Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) saw nonfarm job gains from November to December 2020. Idaho Falls and Lewiston each saw an increase of 0.7 percent, followed closely by Boise’s 0.6 percent increase. Coeur d’Alene (-0.2 percent) and Pocatello (-0.3 percent) experienced slight declines.

Year-over-year, the Idaho Falls MSA had the greatest job gains at 4.9 percent while Boise saw a slight increase of 0.1 percent. The remaining three MSAs saw declines over December 2019, with Lewiston experiencing the greatest decrease at 6.9 percent.


National Comparisons

Nationally, the December unemployment rate was unchanged at 6.7 percent, with the number of unemployed increasing by 8,000 to 10.7 million. Total nonfarm payroll employment declined by 140,000 to 142.6 million in December, below its pre-pandemic February level by 9.8 million (-6.5 percent).

In December 2019, the national unemployment rate was 3.6 percent and the number of unemployed was 5.8 million. Total nonfarm payroll employment was 152.9 million. 

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