Unemployment in Idaho has dropped to three percent, but Benewah County still has one of the highest unemployment rates in the state.

Benewah County was recorded in the Idaho Department of Labor’s most recent report as having an unemployment rate of 5.5 percent with 225 residents unemployed out of the 4,058 available workforce.

Other counties to have similar unemployment rates are Adams County with 6.4 percent, Lewis County with 5 percent and Clearwater County with 6.3 percent unemployment.

The need for employees has been noticeable in the county as help wanted signs have been a common site on multiple businesses.

Most recently the Benewah Community Hospital put out an add seeking registered nurses and were offering $5,000 sign on bonuses for those who accept the position.

Both Harvest Foods and Archie’s IGA have struggled with hiring over the last several months. Harvest Foods most recently posted for a job position in its meat department and Archie’s IGA was seeking someone for its deli.

PotlatchDeltic has even struggled with retaining general laborers and higher up positions, and months ago raised its hiring hourly rate to try and attract applicants.

The St. Maries School District has also struggled with finding people for non-certified positions.

“It’s been getting harder to get people to want to apply and we are having to find ways to get people to realize that these are good jobs,” Superintendent Alica Holthaus said in a previous interview.

The reasons for lack of employees is all over the map as well. Some claim a lack of housing is resulting in the lack of long term employees. Others say that COVID unemployment benefits have kept people at home, but those benefits ended in June.

Shirley Ackerman with the local labor office said the lack of applicants may be due to office closures. The Idaho Department of Labor’s St. Maries office officially closed its doors in 2019, right before the pandemic.

“We have pretty high unemployment compared to the rest of the state,” Ackerman said. “I think part of the problem is our offices have been closed so Idaho Department of Labor staff have a limited availability to serve the public.”

The population in Benewah County has been slower to return to work due to having limited options when seeking out an office to apply for jobs. She said the nearest office is in Post Falls which may limit some from being able to get services.

Another factor is the state limiting the amount of Idaho Department of Labor employees.

“I know there is a reduction in staffing and I know it will impact our area and others across the state,” Ackerman said. “We do get individuals who come in but not a lot since we are here a day and a half each week versus five days a week.”

Ackerman said the Idaho Department of Labor does seek to help local employers in any way it can.

“Our department understands that our employers are struggling,” Ackerman said. “We certainly want to be a partner to our local employers and do what we can. We need to get people back into the workforce.”

For more information or for help seeking employment in the area, contact Ackerman at 208-457-8789 ext. 3873 or 3813.

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