Idaho Unemployment Reaches Record High of 11.5 Percent in April


For Immediate Release: May 22, 2020
Information Contact: Craig Shaul, (208) 332-3570 ext. 3201 or Karen Jarboe Singletary (208) 332-3570 ext. 3215

Nonfarm Jobs Fell 10.4 Percent

Idaho’s seasonally adjusted unemployment jumped to 11.5 percent and non-farm payrolls lost 79,500 jobs in April due to the effects of COVID-19.

April’s rate increased nine percentage points from a record low 2.5 percent in March to an all-time high that exceeded record-setting rates of 10.2 percent in December 1982 and the Great Recession peak rate of 9.6 percent in June 2009.

Total employment dropped by 83,842 to 788,816, a decrease of 9.6 percent, while the number of unemployed Idahoans grew by 81,001 – nearly five-fold – to 102,975.

Idaho’s seasonally adjusted labor force stayed somewhat steady, decreasing slightly by 2,841 to 891,791.

April’s labor force participation rate – the percentage of people 16 years and older with jobs or looking for work – dropped from 64.2 percent to 63.9 percent, the largest over-the-month participation rate decline on record, and the lowest participation rate for Idaho since mid-2017.

Idaho nonfarm payrolls lost 79,500 jobs, down 10.4 percent to 687,700 for April, the first month the state reported fewer than 700,000 total nonfarm jobs since August 2016.

Four industry sectors saw over-the-month decreases of 10 percent or more in April – leisure and hospitality (-42.3 percent), other services (-24.5 percent), information (-18.9 percent) and education and health services (-12.8 percent). These four sectors include many establishments most affected by COVID-19 safety measures including restaurants, ski resorts and golf courses, repair shops, salons, movie theaters, schools and non-emergency health care services. Natural resources was the only industry sector to show any payroll gains with an increase of 100 jobs.

Year over year, the total number of Idahoans with jobs dropped 7.3 percent (-62,105) while the number of unemployed increased by 77,134 (+299 percent).

Idaho’s labor force showed an over-the-year gain of 15,029 people, up 1.7 percent from April 2019. Seasonally-adjusted nonfarm jobs were down 9 percent representing an over-the-year loss of 68,200 jobs. Three sectors continued to see employment levels higher than April 2019 – natural resources (+5.4 percent), financial activities (+1.6 percent) and construction (+0.2 percent) – but combined, these over-the-year gains of 900 jobs were offset by large losses in other sectors.

All of Idaho’s five Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) saw nonfarm job declines from March to April 2020. Job losses in three MSAs exceeded the statewide average including Lewiston (-14.8 percent), Coeur d’Alene (-13.6 percent) and Pocatello (-11.4 percent). Job losses for the Boise MSA reached 10.3 percent, while Idaho Falls saw a smaller loss of 4.3 percent.

Year over year, all five Idaho MSAs experienced significant job declines. Lewiston experienced the largest over-the-year percent job loss at -14.8, while the Idaho Falls MSA saw the smallest job loss at -0.4 percent.

Regular unemployment insurance benefit payments were up 627.8 percent from a weekly average of $1,676,419 one year ago to a weekly average payout of $12,201,799 in April 2020. The number of claimants increased by 752.7 percent to a weekly average of 42,266 from 4,957 one year ago.

Nationally, unemployment reached 14.7 percent in April. The number of unemployed persons rose by 15.9 million to 23.1 million in April.

One year earlier, the national unemployment rate was 3.6 percent, while the number of unemployed reached 5.9 million. []

Labor force data for Idaho’s counties and cities can be found at

For details on Idaho’s labor market, visit

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