Idaho's economy improves, but many still looking for jobs

BOISE, Idaho _ Jim Welch drove by a road sign in West Boise this week announcing new jobs for a hamburger restaurant opening soon. He made a mental note: Get an application.

The 62-year-old Boisean once earned a six-figure salary in the credit and collections business. Now he is ready to take any kind of job he can get to pay his bills and hold on to what he has.

"My pride was swallowed a long time ago," Welch said.

Welch is on the outer edge of unemployment in Idaho. Except for a short time in a fast-food place, he's been out of work for about 18 months. His unemployment checks ran out last month. And he sees himself at a crossroads: Find some money, or face bankruptcy and watch his Caldwell home slide into foreclosure.

As the state's unemployment rate continues to rise _ but the Treasure Valley rate takes a small dip _ Welch is a reminder that thousands of people who lost their jobs aren't finding replacements quickly.

Since February, 854 Idahoans have exhausted all their unemployment benefits, including extended payments kicked in by the federal government to help during the recession, without finding work. Many of these people could have been out of work for up to 72 weeks. People on unemployment draw between $90 and $387 a week.

The state said 65,900 Idahoans are without jobs, a record.

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