Idaho Unemployment Rate Falls to 8.9 Percent in May


For Immediate Release: June 19, 2020
Media Contact: Craig Shaul, or Karen Jarboe Singletary,

Note: This release includes revised labor market numbers provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. See below.*

Nonfarm jobs recover 3.5 percent

Idaho’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell to 8.9 percent in May, and non-farm payrolls regained 24,300 jobs as the state’s economy began a rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic.

May’s rate dropped from a revised record high of 11.8 percent in April, falling below former peak rates of 10.2 percent in December 1982 and 9.6 percent in June 2009 during the Great Recession.

Total employment increased 23,090 to 804,643, up 3 percent from April, while the number of unemployed Idahoans dropped by 24.2 percent, down 25,276 to 79,015.

Idaho’s seasonally adjusted labor force decreased by 2,186 to 883,658 for a total decline of almost 11,000 – or 1.2 percent – since the Covid-19 emergency declaration in March.

May’s labor force participation rate – the percentage of people 16 years and older with jobs or looking for work – dropped from 63.5 percent in April to 63.2 percent for May – the lowest it has been for Idaho since May 1976.

Idaho nonfarm payrolls gained 24,300 jobs, up 3.5 percent to 713,000 for May. April’s 688,700 total nonfarm jobs was a level last seen in Idaho in 2016, and May’s recovery brought Idaho nonfarm jobs back to the 2017 level.

All but three industry sectors experienced some recovery in May, with the most significant gains concentrated in sectors with over-the-month increases of 5 percent or more – leisure and hospitality (+27.3 percent), education and health services (+9.8 percent) and other services (+7.4 percent). Natural resources, government, and professional and business services experienced declines.

Year-over-year, the total number of Idahoans with jobs dropped 5.7 percent (-48,607) while the number of unemployed increased by 53,143 (+205.4 percent).

Idaho’s labor force held on to an over-the-year gain of 4,536 people, up slightly (0.5 percent) from May 2019.

Seasonally adjusted nonfarm jobs were down 5.9 percent representing an over-the-year loss of 44,900 jobs.

Only two sectors – construction and financial activities – continued to see employment levels higher than May 2019, while the four largest over the year industry declines were in leisure and hospitality (-26.1 percent), other services (-18.4 percent), information (-11.1 percent), and education and health services (-6.8 percent).

All but one of Idaho’s five Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) saw nonfarm job gains from April to May 2020 – Idaho Falls (4.3 percent), Pocatello (4.1 percent), Boise (4.0 percent) and Coeur d’Alene (3.4 percent). Lewiston remained at the same level as April (0.0 percent).

Year over year, Idaho Falls was the only MSA in Idaho to see an increase at 1.4 percent. Lewiston (-13.8 percent), Pocatello (-11.3 percent), Coeur d’Alene (-9.1 percent) and Boise (-4.8 percent) all were below their May 2019 levels.

Annually, unemployment insurance benefit payments were up 837 percent from a weekly average of $1,295,000 a year ago to $12,134,000 weekly for May 2020. The number of claimants increased 1,100 percent to 45,037 from a weekly average of 3,828 a year ago. These increases are a direct result of the shutdowns caused by COVID-19.

Nationally, unemployment fell to 13.3 percent in May. The number of unemployed persons fell by 2.1 million to 21 million in May.

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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* Total labor force, total employment, total unemployed and the unemployment rate have been revised by the Bureau of Labor Statistics for April. The revisions are part of the normal procedures for adjusting Local Area Unemployment Statistics. A chart of the revised estimates including the original estimate, the revised estimate and the numeric or percentage change can be found below.

More information about the effect of COVID-19 on the BLS estimates can be found at