April 2020 was the worst period of joblessness caused by the pandemic, and the region’s unemployment rate spiked to 10.9%, its highest rate since the severe recession of the early 1980s. Now, its rate is nearly back to pre-pandemic levels.

North Central Idaho’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate from 3.3% in March and 3.3% in April. Rates rose in Clearwater, Lewis, and Nez Perce Counties, while remaining the same in Idaho County (4.5%) and edging down from 3.2% to 3.1% in Latah County. The last two months is one of the few periods when none of North Central Idaho’s unemployment rates ranked in the top five among Idaho’s 44 counties.

In the counties where unemployment rates rose, the increases resulted from more people rejoining the labor force or joining it for the first time. When people start looking for work after a pause or for the first time, they will show up as unemployed until they find work.

Despite the small increase in joblessness, unemployment rates remain close to historic lows, and employers are finding it difficult to recruit and retain workers. Turnover rates are on the rise, while many industries are expanding - increasing the challenges.

There are many reasons for the labor shortages. One is the surge in demand for workers accelerated by manufacturing, construction, and the recovering leisure and hospitality sector. The other reasons concern shrinkage of labor supply.

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