New numbers show large job losses are continuing - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

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New numbers show large job losses are continuing

SPOKANE, Wash. - The government's monthly jobs report came out this morning, and we've hit 8.9 percent unemployment.

That's the highest rate in more than a quarter-century, but the pace of the nation's job losses is slowing.

The U.S. lost 539,000 jobs last month.

That's huge but it's the smallest job loss since October.

Some economists are encouraged.

"This will be the last bad number, but let's face it when you get down to zero there's not much where else to go," says Diane Swonk, Chief Economist at Mesirow Financial.

The man who crunches those numbers told Congress this morning: Don't read too much into it.

"It only looks slightly encouraging because job losses have been so high in recent months," testified Keith Hall of the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Like recent months, most of the jobs lost were in construction and manufacturing.

Offset by more people hired in government, education and healthcare.

The official unemployment number doesn't include the nearly 9 million people who've given up looking or settled into part time work.

An Obama economic advisor said this morning that the President realizes there's still much to be done.

"We've got a lot of ground to get back, so we need every ounce of that stimulus to... put people back to work," says Christina Romer, who heads the White House Council of Economic Advisers.

Republicans remain concerned about how fast the Administration's spending money, and what they call rosy and unrealistic job forecasts.

"These faulty assumptions are dangerous," says Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas).

Stocks rose this morning on the jobs report, and news that big banks should survive this recession.

Idaho jobless rate holds at 7 percent

Possibly showing an early sign of better economic times to come, Idaho's job market appeared to stabilize in April even as the national unemployment rate rose to a quarter-century high.

The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was forecast at 7 percent in Idaho for April, unchanged from revised March figures and 2.7 percentage points higher than in April 2008. Unemployment benefit claims continued their week-by-week decline.

The forecasted rate is subject to adjustment later this month. But Idaho Department of Labor Director Roger B. Madsen saw positive signs in the April report.

"We're surprised but definitely pleased that the unemployment rate for the first time in 20 months has not increased," Madsen said. "The Idaho economy is by no means out of the woods, but we are doing substantially better than many other states."

Nationally, April's unemployment rate jumped another four-tenths of a point to 8.9 percent, the highest level since September 1983 as the economy shed another 539,000 jobs. Since the recession began in December 2007, the national economy has lost 5.7 million jobs.

The gap between the state and national unemployment rates continued to widen in April, reinforcing the prospect that Idaho's rate will remain below the nation's rate throughout the duration of the recession, as it has for the past 7½ years.

There was little movement in employment activity across the state between March and April, but what did occur was forecast as positive. The labor force, which typically begins expanding between March and April by 1,000 or more, rose by 500 - but so did total employment, essentially offsetting the fractional increase in the labor force. That held the jobless rate steady.

In fact, April marked the first month-to-month employment increase Idaho has seen since last July.

Another $9 million in state unemployment benefits was paid out this week to 34,500 idle workers, and 12,000 more received another $3.2 million in federally financed extended benefits because they already have exhausted their allocation of regular state benefits. This week more than 3,500 workers exhausted all benefits - state and federal - and still have not found jobs.

Nearly 1,800 more construction jobs were added, close to what typically occurs between March and April. But 300 more manufacturing jobs were lost from March, primarily in the high-technology sector.

Every county saw the number of people without jobs rise from April 2008, but over half also saw total employment increase during the month. Six counties posted double-digit percentage rates, matching the March number. Benewah was the highest at 15.4 percent, unchanged from March. Clearwater County posted the highest March rate at 16 percent.

Six counties reported rates below 4 percent compared to only one in March. Clark had the lowest April rate at 3 percent.

The Boise metropolitan area, which accounts for a third of the state's employment, recorded a two-tenths increase to 8.4 percent, driven in part by rates of over 10 percent in both Caldwell and Nampa. It was the first time in a decade that any major Idaho city has posted double-digit percentage unemployment.   

 

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