Hundreds of people have lost their jobs in north central Idaho since health officials began recommending people limit social contact to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Significantly more than 400 employees have been downsized in Nez Perce, Latah, Idaho and Clearwater counties, and hundreds of others have had their work hours cut dramatically because of the coronavirus, said Kathryn Tacke, regional economist with the Idaho Department of Labor in Lewiston, in an email.
“All I can say is the impact is going to be big and it’s going to hurt a lot for at least two weeks, but it’s too early to quantify it,” she said.
Initial estimates weren’t available for the southeastern Washington counties of Asotin, Whitman and Garfield. But representatives of labor agencies in Idaho and Washington said they anticipate having more data Thursday.
Grocery stores like Albertsons are hiring, said Georgia Smith, a spokeswoman for the Idaho Department of Labor in Boise.
So is Prestige Care and Rehabilitation, which has locations in Lewiston and Clarkston.
Those are among the exceptions.
“I’ve seen the devastating effects of the double-digit-dip recessions of the early 1980s, the double blows of the dot-com crash and the economic effects of 9-11 and the severe recession following the financial crash in 2008,” said Tacke, who has tracked Idaho’s economy since 1981.
“But I have never seen anything that has the widespread impact on so many industries all at once as this COVID-19 economic shake-up,” she said.
The dramatic demise follows a time where north central Idaho’s unemployment rate of 3.3 percent in December was a near-record low.
The University of Idaho and Washington State University moving to online classes has reduced the number of students in the area who patronize local businesses and are an important part of the workforce.
In the long term, their absence could result in an undercount for the U.S. Census of the number of students who reside in the region, causing a loss in federal money for Latah and Whitman counties, Tacke said.
Elaine Williams may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or (208) 848-2261.