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Idaho, Utah Show Strong Job Recovery During Pandemic

Urban traffic at night in downtown Boise, Idaho
Alden Skeie
Idaho is nearly back at pre-pandemic levels of employment with 98% of jobs recovered. An ongoing housing boom in the state is keeping the construction and finance sectors of the economy strong.

Amid the economic downturn, Idaho and Utah have some of the lowest unemployment rates in the country.

Idaho has recovered essentially all of its job losses since the spring, according to the Idaho Department of Labor's recently published “Idaho Rebound Analysis,” which describes the recovery as “truly remarkable, defying expectations and national trends.” The state's unemployment rate of 4.2% stands as the third-lowest in the country.

“We continue to attract companies and we continue to have jobs,” said Jan Roeser, a regional economist with the Idaho Department of Labor. “Idaho has been in the lowest unemployment rate climate for many years, and this is just a continuation of that.”

Roeser said people are still flocking to Idaho, many from more congested, coastal areas. And that's driving up demand for housing and keeping the construction and finance sectors busy.

Other industries like food processing, tech, and research and development are booming, too, Roeser said. As Idaho has loosened COVID-19 restrictions, retail and restaurants have added jobs back to the economy as well. Though Roeser wonders if these employment trends might begin to slide as COVID-19 cases continue to rise in the state

Utah has also seen success in job recovery. Idaho's southern neighbor boasts the second-lowest unemployment in the country, 4.1%, behind only Nebraska at 4%.

By contrast, Nevada has the highest unemployment rate of all 50 states – 13.2%. That's primarily due to struggling hospitality and leisure industries, which make up a significant portion of the state's workforce.  

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics will publish the latest unemployment numbers next week.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUNR in Nevada, the O'Connor Center for the Rocky Mountain West in Montana, KUNC in Colorado, KUNM in New Mexico, with support from affiliate stations across the region. Funding for the Mountain West News Bureau is provided in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Beau grew up listening to public radio on the Palouse. He is a former host, reporter, producer and engineer for Montana Public Radio in Missoula. As a reporter, he is interested in stories that address issues and perspectives unique to living in the West.
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