Idaho Department of Labor sign

Unemployment benefit claims filed with the Idaho Department of Labor have spiked amid the coronavirus outbreak and local and statewide restrictions.

The latest unemployment data shows that both new unemployment claims and the overall unemployment level have begun falling, though overall unemployment in the Gem State remains at record levels.

Last week, Bonneville County saw its lowest new unemployment claims since Gov. Brad Little’s shutdown order began the week of March 21. The county saw just 135 new unemployment claims, according to the Idaho Department of Labor. New unemployment claims are flowing in 88% slower than in the week of March 28, when Bonneville county saw a pandemic high of 1,203 new claims.

But unemployment claims are still coming any much faster than a year ago. There were just 20 unemployment claims filed in Bonneville County the week of May 13.

According to a study by the Eastern Idaho COVID-19 Economic Report, the industries in the county that have seen the greatest new unemployment filing numbers during the pandemic have been construction, health care and social assistance, accommodation and food services, retail trade and manufacturing. Those industries make up more than 80% of unemployment filings in Bonneville County.

May's new claims across eastern Idaho show a similar slowdown. New unemployment claims in the region reached their pandemic peak the week of March 28 at 1,761. The week of April 18, the new unemployment claims were at 482 in the region. The latest report from the Idaho Department of Labor shows new unemployment claims were at 213 the week of May 16 in eastern Idaho.

The number of Idahoans who continue to rely on unemployment, while still staggering, show promise as well. In May, Idaho unemployment continued claim numbers fell for the first time since the pandemic began.

Idaho’s continued claims reached a high of 71,794 the week of May 2. The following week of May 9, saw continued claims fall by 9% for a total of 65,478. This was the first decline in continued claim numbers since the week of March 21.

Total unemployment remains much higher than at the worst point of the Great Recession, when Idaho had 47,148 continued claims.

New claims across Idaho held steady for the first time when 5,800 new claims were filed in the state both the weeks of May 9 and May 16, according to the Idaho Department of Labor.

As Idaho readies to head into Stage Three of the state’s reopening those numbers may continue to decline as bars and large venues such as movie theaters open May 30.