The fallout from COVID-19 has Idaho’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate soaring from a record low of 2.5 percent in March to a record high of 11.5 percent in April. With the lockdown phasing out in late May and early June in most of the state, many jobs are being restored. But the Idaho economy, as well as economies around the globe, may not rebound completely for some time.
More than one in four young Idahoans lost jobs
Teens and young adults experienced the most job losses during the first 10 weeks of the crisis. More than one in four (25.6 percent) Idaho workers under 35 years old filed new unemployment insurance claims between March 15 and May 23, while 15.7 of workers 35 years and older filed new claims.
Why did young people encounter especially large unemployment spikes? Youth make up a large proportion of the workforce of the two sectors with the most layoffs – leisure & hospitality and retail – which together accounted for 28 percent of all new unemployment claims. People under age 35 held 60 percent of leisure and hospitality jobs and 43 percent of retail jobs in 2019, according to the Census Bureau’s Quarterly Workforce Indicators. Youth are less likely to hold the managerial and professional jobs that could be done at home. In addition, employers typically lay off less experienced workers, while keeping those with greater seniority.
Schweitzer Mountain Resort executives are unveiling plans for $85 million in new development, including new runs, lifts and a previously planned boutique hotel. Resort executives said expansion is justified by robust annual attendance figures. Completion of the new hotel was slated to accommodate the opening of the 2020-21 ski season, but construction has been delayed due to COVID-19. Source: Spokane Journal of Business
The Kootenai Tribe has reopened the Kootenai River Inn Casino after nearly seven weeks of being closed due to COVID-19. The tribe paid all employee wages, including tips, during the shutdown and used the downtime to conduct improvements to the facility’s parking lot, swimming pool and casino space. Source: Coeur d’Alene Press
Downtown Coeur d’Alene is in the process of reopening according to the guidelines issued by the governor’s office. Restaurants have opened dine-in service with reduced capacity, and the Coeur d’Alene Resort has re-opened. Source: Coeur d’Alene Press
The Salvation Army’s Kroc Center has re-opened after the extended COVID-19 shutdown. Gym and swimming facilities will operate at a reduced capacity to limit crowding, and hours will be modified to accommodate an intensified cleaning schedule. Source: Coeur d’Alene Press
Silverwood Theme Park has announced plans to open May 30, with a variety of alterations to reduce crowding. Changes include limited daily attendance, complementary masks and reconfigured waiting lines. Source: Coeur d’Alene Press
Recent population estimates for 2019 show Idaho’s cities in general have been thriving although small towns in many rural areas have not shared in the growth.
The data recently released by the U.S. Census Bureau shows the population living in Idaho’s 200 incorporated cities grew 2.3 percent from 2018-2019, faster than the state’s 2.1 percent growth.
The bureau also released housing unit growth across the state, which also grew 2.1 percent for the year.
Population Changes 2018-2019
Meridian added the most population in Idaho between 2018 and 2019, adding 7,697 residents, while Nampa added 3,064 and Caldwell added 2,003. Boise and Meridian were the only two cities with more than 100,000 residents, though Nampa was not far behind with just 3,064 residents fewer than 100,000.
With social distancing measures in place to limit the spread of COVID-19, many workers are transitioning to working from home. One in three Idaho jobs are fully suited for telework. The rest are most vulnerable to unemployment during a pandemic. As Idaho’s economy rapidly adapts to remote work, access to high-speed broadband – particularly in the more rural parts of the state – is critical.
The Rise of Teleworking
The full extent of the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is still to be determined, but early signs show the impact on jobs to be significant. As of May 2, 2020, the state of Idaho recorded a record high 125,306 initial claims for unemployment benefits during the seven weeks of the COVID-19 state of emergency. Nationally, the economy lost a staggering 20.5 million jobs in April, bumping the unemployment rate to 14.7 percent.
Along with the unprecedented job losses is a rapid trend towards remote work. To comply with social distancing and stay-at-home orders, employees who can are increasingly being allowed to work from home. Latest trends in online job postings show that while online job postings overall have fallen in recent months, postings specifically labeled as work-from-home are on the rise. The number of new Idaho work-from-home job postings jumped 49 percent from February to March 2020 and 2.4 percent from March to April. In contrast, Idaho job postings overall declined nearly 40 percent from March to April alone.
As the COVID-19 pandemic sweeps through the nation, tracking its impact on the labor market in real-time is necessary, yet challenging, as data to capture the rapid changes occurring on a daily basis is rarely available.
Weekly initial unemployment insurance claims data is currently the best real-time economic indicator available to capture the supply side of the labor market – it gives some indication of how many people are newly unemployed every week. Job postings are another important indicator providing valuable insight into the demand side of the job market and how employers are responding to the crisis. Continue reading →
The second half of March saw an unprecedented surge in the number of unemployment claims filed in Idaho. During the week ending March 28 alone, the state recorded more than 32,000 initial claims – more than 3,000 percent greater than the number of claims just two weeks prior. Between March 15 and April 25, Idahoans filed 117,811 new claims.
A significant number of the jobless claims can be attributed to closures of restaurants, a vast majority of which are small enterprises with under 50 employees. According to the 2019 Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages, 94 percent of all restaurants in the state have fewer than 50 employees, and these small enterprises account for 77 percent of industry employment.
The Federal Communications Commission has approved $521,000 in funding for Red-Spectrum Communications, a broadband provider owned by the Coeur d’Alene Tribe, to expand access in Benewah County. Source: Journal of Business
The U.S. District Court has approved Tamarack Aerospace’s proposed reorganization plan. The Sandpoint winglet manufacturer has been pursuing a reorganization to allow it to emerge from ongoing Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Source: Journal of Business
Percussionaire, a Sandpoint manufacturer, has received clearance from the Food and Drug Administration to produce and distribute a new compact ventilator. The company has also massively ramped up production, from their typical rate of roughly 100 ventilators a month, to more than 1,000 per week. Source: Coeur d’Alene Press
Local food banks are facing significantly higher needs from the community in the wake of COVID-19-related job losses. The Kroc Center and the Silver Lake Mall are now hosting distribution of food as well as personal protective equipment and hygiene products. Source: Coeur d’Alene Press
Despite economic disruption from COVID-19, some construction has proceeded apace in Kootenai County. The Atlas Mill Site development project is moving forward, although construction has not yet begun, and commercial construction in Hayden is still occurring. Source: Coeur d’Alene Press
The Coeur Group, a volunteer group of professionals in Kootenai County, is providing a variety of services to affected residents through their COVID-19 task force. Services include running errands for health-compromised individuals who cannot go out in public, in addition to providing financial assistance to households struggling to meet basic expenses. Source: Coeur d’Alene Press
COVID-19 is having substantial economic impacts and causing significant job losses as non-essential businesses close. In Idaho, unemployment insurance claims spiked following implementation of Idaho’s stay-home order, with nearly 110,000 total claims filed in the first five weeks following the statewide emergency order. Since then, weekly initial claims averages are roughly 18 times greater than the weekly average in 2019.
While it will take time to understand the full economic impact of COVID-19, it is not too early to detect job loss patterns. Some industries are losing more jobs than others, and while some industry losses are not surprising — like movie theaters, restaurants and salons — others may be counterintuitive. Despite the strain on some parts of the health care industry to treat COVID-19, health care workers are losing their jobs because patients are putting off routine medial care and elective surgeries. Other people are avoiding emergency rooms and urgent care clinics due to fears of contracting COVID-19.
COVID-19 slammed Idaho’s economy in March, causing the most sudden and largest job losses ever. At first, most of the job losses occurred in the tourism industry, as fear of COVID-19 reduced international travel, then domestic travel. Then conventions were canceled, schools closed, classes moved online and the dominoes kept falling. Every day, more businesses shut down or laid off its workers. On March 25, Gov. Brad Little issued a statewide 21-day stay-home order and required non-essential businesses to close.
In the six weeks since the coronavirus began affecting Idaho’s economy, 117,811 claims were filed — 13.5 percent of all Idaho residents who were employed before the crisis.
This March edition of “Around Idaho” was postponed due to unexpected delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. This article is being published to provide a record of the economic climate across the state during March 2020.
Information provided in these news updates is from professional sources, news releases, weekly and daily newspapers, television and other media.
Effective Monday, March 23, all restaurants and bars in Post Falls, Coeur d’Alene and Hayden were closed to dine-in customers for two weeks to improve social distancing measures in response to COVID-19. Drive-thru and pickup service is still allowed. Source: Coeur d’Alene Press
The Coeur d’Alene Public Library announced an indefinite closure due to COVID 19 on March 16. On March 21 they announced the suspension of curbside book pickup, out of concern that it was encouraging people to gather outside the library. Patrons were instructed to hold on to items currently on loan until the library reopens. Source: Coeur d’Alene Press
Mountain West Bank has closed the lobbies in all its Idaho facilities. Drive thru banking service will still be available. (Source: Coeur d’Alene Press)
Area schools are closed to prevent the spread of COVID 19. Public school districts are closed until conditions improve, according to the State Board of Education criteria. CDA Charter Academy and North Idaho STEM Charter Academy have both transitioned completely to online learning. Source: Coeur d’Alene Press