Friday, January 9, 2015

U.S. Jobless Figures Drop, But So Do Wages

Posted By on Fri, Jan 9, 2015 at 10:58 AM

More than a half-million Americans were added to the nation's payrolls in December at the U.S. unemployment rate dropped to 5.6 percent, two-tenths of a point lower than November. The jobless rate is now at its lowest level since June 2008.

But as the U.S. Department of Labor reported this morning that the unemployment rate was dropping, so too were wages. The average hourly earnings in December dropped 5 cents to $24.57 and were up only 1.7 percent in 2014, barely keeping up with inflation.

“The simple fact is we cannot consider an employment report a success, no matter how healthy the headline may be, if wage data does not begin to accelerate,” Dan Greenhaus, chief strategist at BTIG, said in a note to clients, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Overall, December marked the 11th straight month of payroll increases above 200,000 the longest stretch since 1994. For all of 2014, the U.S. economy generated 2.95 million new jobs.
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Friday, January 2, 2015

Study: Idaho 7th Highest State for Embezzlement Losses

Posted By on Fri, Jan 2, 2015 at 9:16 AM

Idaho is the 7th highest state for embezzlement losses, according to new research from Marquet International Ltd.

The study, which was released just before the turn of the new year, indicates that 2013 was "a gangbuster year" for U.S. embezzlers. This is the Marquet Report's sixth year of analyzing insider theft in America.

Idaho was the 7th most vulnerable state in the U.S., according to the report, following Vermont; Washington, D.C.; West Virginia; Montana; South Dakota; and Virginia. Rounding out the top 10 were Oklahoma, Texas and Missouri.

The 2013 study looked at the 554 active cases nationwide where monies in the $100,000 range or higher were embezzled by employees.  In Idaho the average loss from major embezzlement cases in 2013 was $1,686,250. All in, the study includes four major embezzlement cases in Idaho, totaling more than $6.7 million.

The lowest risk states, according to the study include Hawaii, Washington, Arizona, Iowa and Florida.
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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Clearwater Paper Sheds Specialty Paper Facilities

Posted By on Wed, Dec 31, 2014 at 9:39 AM

One of north-central Idaho's biggest and oldest employers, Clearwater Paper, is selling off its specialty paper factories.

Clearwater is selling its operations located in Connecticut; New York; Michigan; Mississippi; and Ontario, Canada, which made uncoated and waxed paper. The operations, which employed 470 people, were sold off to Michigan-based Dunn Paper for $113 million. 

This morning's Lewiston Tribune reports that Clearwater CEO Linda Massman said the sale will allow the company "to narrow the focus of its consumer products segment" at its Lewiston plants and elsewhere.

Clearwater Paper's consumer products division employs nearly 600 employees in Lewiston while its pulp and paperboard facility employs about 725 workers.
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Sunday, December 28, 2014

Minimum Wage Going Up in Oregon and Washington; Idaho Stuck at $7.25

Posted By on Sun, Dec 28, 2014 at 9:15 AM

The minimum wage is scheduled to go up once more in Washington, Oregon and seven other states this coming week. But in Idaho, the minimum wage remains at $7.25 per hour, tied to the federal minimum (17 states have the same minimum wage rate as the federal rate).

After the new wages go into effect with the new year, 29 states and the District of Columbia will see minimum wages higher than the federal minimum. Washington will have the highest minimum wage in the nation when it starts paying $9.47 per hour. Oregon's minimum wage will be $9.25 per hour.

In 2014, voters in four states (Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska and South Dakota) approved ballot measures to boost the minimum wage. In seven states (Connecticut, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont and West Virginia) legislatures approved increases to the minimum wage. In nine states (Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, Ohio, Oregon and Washington) the minimum wage is automatically adjusted annually by state law.

A bill to raise Idaho's minimum wage surfaced at the Statehouse in the 2014 legislative session, but the measure, introduced by Ketchum Democratic Sen. Michelle Stennett, died in committee.

"Many think [minimum wage earners] are part-time, they live with their parents or are in after-school jobs," Stennett said at the time. "But 40 percent [of minimum wage earners] say it's the sole source of income in their household. Twenty-eight percent have children. Fifty-six percent of them are women, and often single."

An August 2014 report titled "Families Out of Balance" indicated that Idaho's so-called "living wage"—earnings per hour necessary to meet basic needs—is $14.57 for a single adult. The living wage for a single adult with two children is $24.12 per hour.
  • Families Out of Balance/

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Monday, December 8, 2014

Feds Order Chapala Mexican Restaurant to Pay $230K in Unpaid Overtime

Posted By on Mon, Dec 8, 2014 at 1:30 PM

A Boise-area restaurant chain has agreed to pay $230,000 in back wages and damages to dozens of workers in the wake of a federal investigation that found overtime violations at its Boise, Garden City, Nampa and McCall restaurants.

Chapala Mexican Restaurant must pay the unpaid overtime to 51 of its employees after investigators from the U.S. Department of Labor found that the owners didn't properly compensate its cooks, tipped employees and other staff.  

The U.S. Fair Labor Standards Act requires that covered employees be paid at least the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour as well as one-and-a-half times their regular rate for every hour worked over 40-hours per week. The law also requires detailed record-keeping of employee wages and hours.
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Saturday, December 6, 2014

Times-News: Glanbia Foods Plans Massive Expansion in Gooding, Twin Falls

Posted By on Sat, Dec 6, 2014 at 11:29 AM

Twin Falls-based Glanbia Foods is planning a more than $80 million expansion to its manufacturing and power generating facilities, the Twin Falls Times-News reports

To meet demand for whey products, the company is investing $82 million in manufacturing processes, including a $17 million expansion to its Twin Falls plant, as well as a 30-megawatt power station on Glanbia-owned land in Gooding County. The expansion is expected to create about 50 jobs over the next two years.

The investment, however, comes after negotiations with the Idaho Department of Commerce, which has approved a 23 percent incentive on payroll and state income taxes for Glanbia. In addition, the company has also received tax breaks from the Gooding County Commission, which approved a property tax abatement for the corporation to the tune of $1.5 million-$2 million over the next five years.

Beginning in 2020, the company will again pay property taxes.
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DoL: Median Household Income Decreases in 25 Idaho Counties

Posted By on Sat, Dec 6, 2014 at 11:22 AM

Twenty-five of Idaho's 44 counties saw a decrease in median household income between 2012 and 2013, according to the Idaho Department of Labor

Idaho's median household income during that period was $46,767, while the corresponding income nationwide was just over $53,000. Statewide, the decrease—about 0.5 percent—was about $240 per year.

Nine counties posted household incomes that exceeded the statewide average, including Blaine County, which had the highest: $64,042 in 2013, up just less than $4,000 from 2012. Madison County posted the greatest decrease in its median household income, falling to $32,059. That's down more than $1,700 from 2012, or 5.1 percent.

Four other states, including Nevada, Florida, Georgia and Arizona, recorded greater decreases in median household income than Idaho's 0.5 percent.
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Friday, November 21, 2014

Boise Unemployment Rate Drops to 2.7 Percent

Posted By on Fri, Nov 21, 2014 at 1:50 PM

Idaho's jobless rate dropped again in October—to 4.1 percent—the lowest level since March 2008. The Gem State's unemployment rate dipped four-tenths of a percentage point to the six-and-a-half-year low. Idaho's jobless rate has fallen nearly 2 percentage points over the past  year from 5.9 percent in October 2013.

According to the Idaho Department of Labor, manufacturers brought on new workers at a rate fractionally higher than normal due to an increase in food processing. Meanwhile, hiring in the construction, natural resources, financial services and retail and wholesale industries fell below a five-year average.

No Idaho counties reported double-digit jobless rates, and only four counties posted higher rates than September: Camas, Franklin, Oneida and Teton.

The highest unemployment rate was registered in Adams County—6.7 percent—while the lowest jobless figure was in Clark County at 1.8 percent. 

The city of Boise registered a 2.7 unemployment rate in October, dropping seven-tenths of a point from September
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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Idaho Agribusiness Call for Immigration Reform From New GOP Majority

Posted By on Wed, Nov 19, 2014 at 11:12 AM

Left to right: Brent Olmstead and Ivan Castillo - HARRISON BERRY
  • Harrison Berry
  • Left to right: Brent Olmstead and Ivan Castillo
This isn't the first time that Brent Olmstead, president of Milk Producers of Idaho and executive director of the Idaho Business Coalition for Immigration Reform, and Idaho Hispanic Chamber of Commerce President Ivan Castillo have called on Congress to enact comprehensive immigration reform, but there's no denying that the most recent plea—a special section running in Nov. 19th's edition of the Washington Times and individual media events across the country—comes at a unique political moment.

Congressional Republicans retook the U.S. Senate during the Nov. 5 midterm elections; on the campaign trail, many of them indicated an interest in some kind of immigration reform.

"Republicans have control of the Senate. They need to live up to the promises they made in the election and fix [the U.S. immigration system]," Olmstead said.

But Congress may not have time to move on immigration reform on its own, and President Barack Obama has indicated that he will take executive action to provide temporary protections to millions of undocumented immigrants Thursday, Nov. 20. 

"Legislative action is always preferable, but we have waited for Congress to act and the Congress has not acted. The president has waited," Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson told the Washington Post.

Nevertheless, Olmstead and Castillo told reporters this morning at the Milk Producers of Idaho office in Boise that the people who have waited for immigration the longest are immigrants themselves, and that giving some kind of legal status to undocumented workers would be a boon for Idaho and the country as a whole. 

"When you give people the opportunity to come out of the shadows, you give people the opportunity to help this country," Castillo said. 

According to Olmstead, there are permits available for an additional 40,000 head of cattle across the state that aren't being used because of a labor shortage, and the dairy industry isn't the only sector of the economy that would benefit from a system that welcomes, rather than discourages, migrant labor. He suggested that reform might include a guest worker program, enhanced border security, work permits renewable in the United States through employers, English language learning and an increase in the number of visas available to highly educated or skilled immigrants, like those with specialized training of Ph.Ds. He cited a double standard within the current immigration system that privileges some applicants at the expense of others.

"There's a visa to bring a ballerina into this country, but there isn't a visa to work on agricultural supply," he said.

While immigration reform is a hot political topic with economic implications, the U.S. immigration system constitutes a human rights crisis. Castillo offered an anecdote about an acquaintance whom he encountered at WalMart shopping for his friends and family who were too frightened of immigration officials to appear in public. According to Castillo, that fear prevents even documented workers and citizens from fully participating in U.S. economic, political and social life.

"We all know someone who doesn't have papers," he said. "Political leaders need to know that Hispanics are here to stay."
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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Job Gap: Idaho Women, Latinos, Native Americans, People of Color Hit Hardest

Posted By on Tue, Nov 18, 2014 at 10:29 AM

Saying that a history of fiscal policies "have perpetuated low pay in jobs and industries where women and people of color are most likely to work," a new study out today points out the growing gap between the have's and have-not's. The study by the Alliance for a Just Society, entitled "Equity in the Balance," says it "details the percentage of women and people of color who don't make a living wage in Idaho."

Among the reports findings:

- Native Americans, Latinos and all workers of color were less likely to earn a living wage in Idaho.
- The widest gap between workers of color and all workers is for households with two working adults and two children.
- Only 43 percent of female workers earn a living wage for a single adult
- Only 11 percent of female workers earn enough to support two adults and two children with only one adult working.

Among those interviewed in the report is Mayra De Alba of Heyburn, who lives at home with her parents and two brothers. She and her parents work in Idaho's potato fields. She says he is supposed to earn $9 an hour, but sometimes doesn't get paid unless one of her father's friends, who speaks English, threatens to report the employer.

"My friends have referred me to jobs—usually as a dishwasher or busser at a restaurant, where I could at least get my foot in the door — and I have even had interviews, but it never works out. I speak Spanish and not much English, so the language barrier is part of it. But, it’s even harder without a driver’s license. Even though I know that I can get a ride and I tell employers that, they end up hiring someone else. A few times, I’ve even shown up for work at a new job and had them tell me they found someone else. It’s very discouraging."

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