TREASURE VALLEY - For the first time since November, Idaho's unemployment rate of 9 percent slipped below the national average of 9.1 percent.

The Idaho Department of Labor reports 17,000 new workers in September, hired to both fill new jobs and replace previous workers.

The total number of Idaho workers increased 1,500 from August to September, ending a three-month slide in total employment.

Nondurable manufacturing, transportation, food service and education all posted job gains higher than averages in the mid-2000s.

The number of workers without jobs in September fell to about 68,000, the lowest since February 2010. But The Conference Board, a business think tank, still reported that there were nearly four unemployed Idaho workers for every job opening listed in September.

Almost 24,000 unemployed workers collected $22.9 million in jobless benefits during September. That was down from over 31,000 workers collecting $35.9 million in benefits during September 2010. More than 11,800 workers have exhausted all benefits without finding jobs.

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