Idaho’s September Labor Force Reaches Record High


For Immediate Release: Oct. 16, 2020
Media Contact: Craig Shaul, or Karen Jarboe Singletary,

Record growth in the state’s seasonally adjusted labor force increased September’s unemployment rate to 6.1 percent, up from 4.2 percent in August. The labor force is up by 22,129 (+2.5 percent) to 918,644. As a result, the number of unemployed increased by 18,806, even as total employment continued to grow by 3,323 (+0.4 percent).

The record gains also pushed the state’s labor force participation rate – the percentage of people 16 years and older with jobs or looking for work – up from 63.7 percent in August to 65.1 percent in September. The last time Idaho’s participation rate was at or above 65.1 percent was in August 2010 – just over 10 years ago.

Total nonfarm jobs dropped by 1,000 (-0.1 percent) to 758,600 for September. A substantial gain of 1,800 jobs in leisure and hospitality (+2.3 percent), combined with modest increases in financial activities, natural resources, and trade, transportation and utilities, were not enough to compensate for job declines in other industries, including a loss of 2,200 jobs in government (-1.7 percent).

Three of Idaho’s five Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) saw month-to-month nonfarm job growth with Lewiston showing the fastest job gains at 1.5 percent, while Idaho Falls and Boise experienced slight declines.

Year over year, Idaho’s labor force was up by 30,849 (+3.5 percent) to 918,644. Total employment – up by only 119 to 862,341 – was essentially unchanged from September 2019. The number of unemployed was up by 30,730 (+120.2 percent) to 56,303.

September’s year-over-year decrease of 5,700 seasonally adjusted nonfarm jobs (-0.7 percent) represents a deeper deficit from August’s revised loss of 4,100 jobs (-0.5 percent). Seven of Idaho’s industry sectors showed year-over-year losses with the largest declines in education and health services, down 4,100 jobs (-3.7 percent), and leisure and hospitality, down 3,600 jobs (-4.8 percent). Four sectors shared year-over-year gains with trade, transportation and utilities showing the largest increase of 4,100 jobs (+2.8 percent) and financial activities up by 2,400 jobs (+6.4 percent).

Idaho Falls continued to be the only MSA to show year-over-year nonfarm job gains at 3.7 percent. The remaining four MSAs saw job losses with Coeur d’Alene showing the largest decrease at 4.9 percent.

Regular unemployment insurance benefit payments were up 186 percent from a weekly average of $823,900 a year ago to $2,355,500, while the number of claimants grew 259 percent to 8,870 from a weekly average of 2,470 a year ago.

Nationally, the unemployment rate dropped to 7.9 percent, and the number of unemployed dropped by 970,000 to 12.6 million. One year earlier, 5.8 million people were unemployed, and the national unemployment rate was 3.5 percent. []

Labor force data for Idaho’s counties and cities are available at

For details on Idaho’s labor market, visit


* Editors / News Directors – please note:

The BLS State Employment and Unemployment data for September 2020 are scheduled to be released on Oct. 20, 2020, at 10:00 A.M. Eastern Time.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) implemented modifications to the Local Area Unemployment Statistics (LAUS) seasonal adjustment, smoothing and outlier designation procedures beginning with the April 2020 final LAUS estimates. These changes preserve movements in the published estimates that the models otherwise would have discounted and may contribute to higher variance and volatility in month-to-month changes and revisions. BLS anticipates these modifications will continue for as long as complex outlier treatments are deemed necessary for the model inputs. More information can be found on the BLS website.