According to Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) provisional estimates, in July 2003 the seasonally adjusted civilian labor force in Idaho numbered 688,900, with approximately 38,700 workers unemployed, yielding an unemployment rate of 5.6%, compared to the national average of 6.2% for the same period. Since the beginning of the BLS data series in 1978, the highest unemployment rate recorded was 11.4% in January 1983. The historical low was 4.4% in January 2001. In 2001, an estimated 6.8% of the labor force was employed in construction; 11.8% in manufacturing; 4.5% in transportation, communications, and public utilities; 20.9% in trade; 4.3% in finance, insurance, and real estate; 19.5% in services; 16.1% in government; and 6.5% in agriculture.
Idaho was a pioneer in establishing the eight-hour day and in outlawing yellow-dog contracts. In 1958, Idaho voters rejected right-to-work legislation; Governor John Evans vetoed similar legislation in 1982; in 1986, Idaho became one of 22 states with a right-to-work law when voters approved the law.
The US Department of Labor reported that in 2002, 39,000 of Idaho's 547,000 employed wage and salary workers were members of unions. This represented 7.1% of those so employed, down slightly from 7.5% in 2001. The national average is 13.2%. In all, 48,000 workers (8.9%) were represented by unions. In addition to union members, this category includes workers who report no union affiliation but whose jobs are covered by a union contract.